Monday, May 26, 2008

The Bank Guards

Fourth Wall’s ‘THE BANK GUARDS’ less than hoped for

Fourth Wall Productions, which is now staging the world premiere of Mathew Sprosty’s ‘THE BANK GUARDS,’ is one of those new small theatre companies whose dreams often exceed their results.

Sprosty, a promising playwright, is the author of one of last year’s top local plays, ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY.’ I recognized the author and the play with a Times Theatre Award. He has a “hip” way of writing, a new wave attitude, and comes up with clever plot twists. The hip, the new wave and the plot twists are present in his newest work, ‘THE BANK GUARDS;’ but, they don’t work as well this time.

The play is filled with too many improbables and the staging leaves much to be desired.

The story centers on a group of bank guards who plot to hold up their own bank. They, of course, have no, or at best, a vague plan. A teenager, who has pulled off a series of bank robberies, finds out about the plot and tries to weasel in on the heist. There is in-fighting and counter-plotting. And, a “surprise” ending.

Sounds like an interesting premise. It is, kind of. The problem is that there are just too many improbables. Why are the guards, who say several times that they are not allowed to thwart robberies in the bank, wearing guns while off-duty? Since this takes place in Cleveland, which has a law against carrying unconcealed weapons, why would these guys be walking around with exposed, holstered guns? Why are the guards so concerned about wiping fingerprints off door knobs after “the” murder (I don’t want to give too much of the plot away here), but are oblivious to the blood in the middle of the floor? (By the way, even though the blood is referred to, we never see it.) How does the teenager find out where the “meeting” is being held? Are these guys really that stupid that they would go into this plot without a plot? The over use of calling one character “old” and another “kid” becomes tedious after a while. I could go on, but hopefully you get the point.

The production, under the directorship of Rebacca Cole, is as uneven as the play. Several of the performances, however, are quite good. Michael Riffle (Ben), as the Iraq vet, has some nice moments, especially after he loses his faked attitude and becomes the real Ben. Ric Barr, as the “old” man is believable in his portrayal. The rest of the cast is inconsistent in character development, going in and out of character…alternating feigning anger and control and angst and more control. I didn’t believe any of them was a real person with real motives. It may be the writing, it may be the directing. The over-lapping of spoken lines, the mumbling, the use of obscenity for no purpose than to sound “hip,” all add up to a lack of smooth ebb and flow of ideas and reality.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: I really want Fourth Wall Productions to succeed. It is dedicated to doing shows that appeal to and should draw in younger audiences, which local theatre desperately needs. However, their productions are so inconsistent that it will be hard to build a loyal audience. In addition, their location, on E. 105th Street in Cleveland, though there is a lighted parking lot, may turn off the less secure from attending.