nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
July 15, 2007
DupleX, a playful ten-cent drama by Scott Brooks, offers the prospect of suspense and the twists and turns of a thriller in a far-fetched plot that has a lot going for it. I arrived willing to accept inexplicable moments and irrational behavior. But, in the end, Brooks asks too much of his audience and I left with too many unanswered questions. Some of the shortcomings could have been satisfied by the director, Sam Viverito, but more on that later.
This amoral tale of greed starts with a young man, who shows an elegant furnished duplex apartment to a gruff immigrant more interested in peeking out the window than in the amenities of the flat, which he agrees to rent. Trouble heats up when the renter returns with an old Hasidic diamond dealer. There is murder, a squatter, a con game, a cop, and a twist. No one is who he seems to be. The plot is fun—perhaps more fun in the synopsis than in the actual telling since Brooks dramatizes the tale and then has the characters retell what we just saw. Editing to 60 minutes from 80 would do much to restore the suspense, and simplifying would do away with the need to justify the decisions the characters make. It would also eliminate questions such as, what makes the young man so insightful? And, what exactly are the con games being played? What makes Sergio think Abe stole the diamonds? Did he, or were they really his?
John Di Benedetto gives the necessary rough, mafia-type edge to the renter, Sergio. Benim Foster as the Hasidic diamond dealer relies on caricature, but as his other character Larry—a smooth operator caught at the wrong end of a con game—he catches the tone and mannerisms of a Wall Street egomaniac. Dominic Marcus captures the posturing of a cop's authority when arriving on the scene. Michael Ferrell, in the role of Nick the real estate rep, doesn't seem committed to the slippery slide into crime, greed, and immorality. Nor does Jennifer-Scott Mobley prove convincing as the con artist. Both Ferrell and Mobley have the acting chops. It is the strong imprint of the director that is both needed and wanting. For example, instead of the crisp pace I expect from a thriller, Mobley and Ferrell seemed to relax into casual banter. A con artist like the one Mobley plays needs to look fabulous—all the time. Mobley's got the goods, but Viverito has her wearing jeans and little visible makeup. A character like Larry wouldn't give Mobley's Zelda two winks. Jazzing up her image would have made credible the scene in which Zelda waltzes around in diamonds. But in jeans? It is out of character. Especially when she knows everyone is looking for them. Diana DeLaCruz rounds out the cast as Molly, Zelda's accomplice, although I'm not sure what purpose this character serves.
Brooks has a story worth telling. However, the plot seems far more complicated than necessary. Editing and simplifying would help keep the actors at least one step ahead of the audience, and would remove the unnecessary questions that crop up and stick long after the show is over. DupleX is presented by the The Midtown International Theatre Festival and Badlands Theatre Company.