PICKSINSIX Review: FLAMINGO & DECATUR
"What if we were completely honest?"
What’s the buzz... Long shots, beat stories, correlated parlays, proposition bets, letting your guard down, and yes, even dining al fresco, are all part of the Las Vegas lingo-laced Chicago debut of Block St. Theatre Company’s FLAMINGO & DECATUR now playing at Theater Wit.
World Premiere… The Arkansas-based company, dedicated to bringing original new work to the stage, present the world premiere of a new play by Todd Taylor and directed by Chicagoan Kevin Christopher Fox.
The premise… Set in 2009, a wily gambler named Jackson (Jason M. Shipman) and his earnest wingman, Ben (Drew Johnson), an online poker addict, spend their days in the backyard of a residential property in the hills southwest of the Las Vegas strip plotting the next big score. Early on we meet Simon (Nathaniel Stahlke), the curious, wacky neighbor who quickly sizes up the players and does a little shaking down of his own. But once the guys hatch a new scheme, Ben brings the sweet and saavy poker-playing vegan Nicole (Stephanie Bignault) for a walk-through and things get interesting for Jackson. All bets are soon off when Jackson realizes that being completely honest has its consequences.
What stands out... the three sharks in these waters know the games they are playing. Playwright Taylor, whose sports writing and poker playing experience add essential depth to the dialogue, has created a terrific blend of likable dreamers. We're plugging for Jackson to become a better person than what is left after the next prop bet comes through. Johnson is the lovable loser who just wants 'not to be unlucky' and serves up delightfully offbeat commentary. This is a story that could be earthbound, but instead, there is a fine pace in the writing. Thanks to the skillful direction of Fox, the relationships grow on you. Bignault’s charm and understated vulnerability is refreshing and her performance throughout quite moving. Stahlke is perfect. Joe Schermoly's set and lighting by Alexander Ridgers fit right in here.
Lessons learned… Poker is an adventure, but we bet to win. We love because we want to, not because we expect to get anything in return. It is also true that “Pumas go through life alone” and “You can’t not get back on the horse, can you?”
Dinner out… show up early, park on the street and make a pre-show reservation at Falhstrom’s nearby. There you may have the good fortune to meet Alfredo who can make the most of your seafood experience. The clam chowder is especially good this time of year and be sure to ask about CONSERVAS, a terrifically unique gift!
Block St Theatre Co
FLAMINGO & DECATUR
1229 West Belmont
through February 18th