Play: "Queen of Bingo"
Group: Black Cat Theatre with Theatre-A-GoGo
Venue: Black Cat Theatre, 2810 Sutton Blvd.
Dates: September 30, October 1, 2, 3
Tickets: $30; contact 314-781-8300 or blackcattheatre.org
Story: It’s the regular weekly bingo night at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and longtime participants Babe and Sis settle in for an evening of number calling and familiar good times. Their weekly trek to the church hall offers refuge from their daily lives as well as cheap entertainment. Both on the shady side of 50, older sister Sis makes sure that her 13 bingo cards are arrayed in easily discernible order, ready to mark the announced numbers in her search for the winning card.
Her sibling Babe struggles to concentrate on the game while avoiding eye contact with Coach, a recently widowed man who has his eye on the overweight divorcee. While Father Mac strolls through the crowd beforehand to welcome the players and ‘The Caller’ announces numbers, Babe and Sis hearken back to their mutual history and talk about future possibilities in bingo and beyond.
Highlights: Written by Phyllis Murphy and Jeanne Michaels, this two-act Off-Broadway comedy has been touring the country since 2005 and features the talents of two men who play the genial sisters as well as Black Cat co-founder and executive director Scott Sears in the roles of Father Mac and the off-stage Caller. Queen of Bingo is the opening offering in Black Cat’s 2010-2011 mainstage season, which features a holiday cabaret and a world premiere in addition to Bingo and Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy, Round and Round the Garden.
Other Info: Shane Partlow and Rowan Joseph have inhabited the characters of Sis and Babe respectively in performances over the last several years, and under Joseph’s direction have honed their roles and delivery of comic lines. Sears fits easily into the cast as the gregarious Father Mac and the steady voice of the off-stage Caller, and as a result it’s a quick and painless evening of steady if predictable laughs.
The major problem with Queen of Bingo is that’s a one-joke script, and the old warhorse just wears down in the course of the evening. It lacks the sharp, familiar wit of Late Nite Catechism, a similar show based on reminiscences of parish life for Catholic members of the audience. While the humor is gentle and innocent enough, it rarely leaves the lasting bite of juicy satire.
Still, the audience at a weekend performance had an enjoyable evening, particularly the young man who walked off with a frozen turkey as the prize in a pre-intermission game of real bingo. Thanksgiving dinner has a head start in his household!
Joseph directs the proceedings in straightforward fashion on a barebones set that focuses on a table for the sisters’ bingo paraphernalia and a simple row of lockers in the background (as Babe and Sis are seated in the lobby outside the overflowing hall). Ellie Schwetye’s lights, the players’ own colorful costumes and Ryan Parris’ upbeat sound design nicely complement the on-stage action.
There’s nothing new or revolutionary in Queen of Bingo, but it’s a harmless presentation of fluffy entertainment.
Rating: A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.