nytheatre.com review by Thomas Bradshaw
August 12, 2006
Big Doolie is a play about a supposedly corrupt sports agent Marthy Futch (Edward James Hyland) who turns out to have a heart of gold. In the end, he decides to give up a big contract so that he can attempt to save another client from imminent danger. The basic plot is that Futch is attempting to sign more lucrative clients while trying not to completely turn his back on the clients that he's had for years. Two of his old clients are Beef (Tim Artz), an injured football player with bad knees, and Jack Mungo (Evan Thompson), an old sportscaster whose television station is trying to push him out of the business. Futch has also hired an apprentice named Bird Dog (David Christopher Wells) who proceeds to steal money and clients from him. Most of the play consists of long conversations between these characters.
The play is described as a "Pitch Black Comedy." A more accurate description might be a light comedy with a semi-tragic ending. In the opening scene Beef has a gun pointed at Futch, who casually talks on the phone ignoring Beef's presence. This immediately sucks any sense of danger out of the play and sets it up as a kind of farce instead of the pitch black comedy that it's meant to be. When Futch does acknowledge Beef's presence, it is to ask him to come back in a couple of hours when he might have some time to talk.
Playwright Richard Thompson is not a bad writer. There are some genuinely funny moments that pop out, but the scenes are all too long. The play runs 2:05 with no intermission. The play might have been effective at 1:15. Part of the problem is that it's hard to get fully invested in the characters. Perhaps this is because I'm not a sports fan, but I just didn't find the story to be particularly intriguing. One nice surprise is that Bird Dog turns out to be very duplicitous.
Even though the play is very long, it's fairly well structured, and every member of the cast delivers an excellent performance. The costume designer Steven Cozzi also did great job.
I think Big Doolie is attempting to show the gritty underside of the sports world, but it seemed more like a very long sitcom. Perhaps the show's blurb should be changed to reflect this reality.