Bag Fulla Money
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 15, 2006
Scott Brooks's Bag Fulla Money is a madcap farce set in the kitchen of a posh resort hotel. The eponymous object is a black duffel bag containing more than one million dollars cash; it is found in the freezer by pastry chef Oscar, who decides that this dough will be the stuff to make him rich. He devises a plan with his fiancee Becky to steal the money, undaunted by the likelihood that the satchel was stashed in the cooler by crooks. Unfortunately, they are overheard by Jonesy, a hotel guest who is deep in debt because of his gambling habit—he has been hiding in a walk-in pantry because he and his girlfriend Laverne had been having an argument here in this kitchen when Oscar and Becky showed up. Eventually the bag's rightful "owners," a pair of petty gangsters named Randall and English, turn up, along with the hotel's owner Mr. Prescott and his dim son Jimmy, who is Oscar's rival for Becky. In the grand tradition of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Noises Off, everybody runs around after the money and everybody hides in inappropriate places and opens and slams lots of doors. Lots of complications ensue. And somebody gets away with a million bucks (of course I won't say who).
Brooks's plotting is pretty neat, especially at the beginning of the second act, when he pulls off a fairly original twist that I obviously can't disclose here (but I didn't see it coming). The characters are drawn very broadly, which means that it's up to the actors to make us believe in and care about these people: Christopher Wisner and Heather Dilly, as Oscar and Becky, succeed best here, with Diana DeLaCruz turning in a fun and high-energy performance as Jonesy's very stereotyped firebrand of a girlfriend Laverne. Darius Stone and Stu Richel, fine actors both, have the least to do as Randall and Prescott, respectively.
Zany is really hard to do, and unfortunately director Sam Viverito doesn't always deliver. The principal problem, I think, is Michael Hotopp's set, which has one really nifty feature—an elevator that is so well designed that it creates an illusion of actually working (except for some reason the numbers light up only when it's coming down, never when it's going up). Otherwise, though, Hotopp's design lets the piece down. It has lots of doors, but the hiding places are all out of sight (which means that actors disappear from our view far too frequently). And the plethora of utensils that ought to be present—pots, pans, big butcher knives, and so on—are barely there at all (and Viverito takes scant advantage of what is available). So the inventive setting provided by Brooks is squandered, along with lots of opportunities for comic business.
So Bag Fulla Money in its present incarnation, while entertaining, doesn't quite work as well as we wish it would. But I think there's potential here (perhaps more for a screenplay than a stageplay), and maybe Brooks will get a more fortuitous production of his clever comedy sometime in the future.