Saturday, April 21, 2007


Under-rehearsed ‘ROULETTE’ not up to par for Bang and Clatter

Bang and Clatter, which is northeast Ohio’s new kitsch theatre, is staging Paul Weitz’s black comedy, ‘ROULETTE.’ Originally, another show was supposed to be staged. That play was withdrawn when the production’s two leads were cast in a major motion picture and had to leave the cast. Going by the motto, “the show must go on,” ‘ROULETTE’ was quickly staged with the opening date pushed back a week.

Unfortunately, the limited rehearsal time shows in the B&C production. The theatre’s usual precision and clarity is missing. Instead, there are muffed lines, lack of clear character development, and a general uncertainty in the staging. Actors tripped going up a makeshift stairway with which they seemed not to have rehearsed. There were times when actors seemed uncertain as to which stage exit to use. Long pauses between scenes did nothing but accentuate the show’s haggard pacing.

Paul Weitz, the author of ‘ROULETTE’ is best known for his raunchy ‘AMERICAN PIE’ movie. He is also the coauthor of the films "ANTZ" and "ABOUT A BOY." Don’t go to see ‘ROULETTE’ expecting gags about bodily fluids, band camp, talking ants or teen angst. This may be funny, but it concerns much more serious stuff.

At the very start of the show, anyone who had a vision Weitz’s writing will realize that this is something quite different. Jon, who we learn is the husband and father of a very dysfunctional suburban family, enters, sits at a table, opens a brief case, extracts a gun, places one bullet in the chamber, spins the chamber, puts the gun to his head and pulls the trigger. There is a click, but no explosion. He smiles, puts the gun back into his brief case and exits. Ah, but the clue is laid that we may see this scene repeated!

In the course of the next two acts, we meet Jon’s wife Enid, who is having an affair with their neighbor, Steve, who is married to Virginia, who thinks she might like to be a nun. We also are introduced to Jon and Enid’s sex-driven, drug-using teenage daughter, Jenny and son Jock, who has more muscles than brains.

Reviews of the show’s off-Broadway run were mixed. The general trend was, “‘ROULETTE’ squanders its opportunity to have something to say by focusing on cartoonish situations. Without the je ne sais quoi that makes an impact on your emotions, the laughs leave you with a hollow feeling.”

It is difficult to evaluate the cast as they seemed so uncertain that it was impossible to ascertain who was throwing the wrong cues and who was dropping lines. None of the characterizations were truly on the mark.

The set was an impressive realistic kitchen. But due to a large table being placed at the very lip of the acting area, actors had difficulty maneuvering around the lower edge of the piece of furniture, making for some awkward movements.

Capsule judgment: ‘ROULETTE’ was not the quality production audiences have come to expect from The Bang and Clatter. It probably would have been wise to hold the opening even longer so the cast could have been better prepared.