Richard Bean’s broad, and at times crude, comedy, The Nap, premiered in Sheffield, the home of UK snooker, in 2016 .
The play’s plot borders on the ridiculous. It features a transgender gangster with one arm, a pole-dancing police officer, and a pure-as-snow rising young snooker player.
Dylan Spokes (Ben Schnetzer, making his Broadway debut) returns to his hometown to play in the snooker World Championships. He grew up with a drug-dealing dad (John Ellison Conlee) and a gambler mom (Johanna Day) but he’s a focused, principled, vegetarian dedicated to playing a clean game in a sometimes corrupt sport.
Then his mother ensnares him in a match-fixing scheme with local gangster Waxy Bush (Alexandra Billings in her Broadway debut). If Dylan doesn’t throw a frame of this championship match, his mother’s life is at risk. Dylan confides the plot to Eleanor (Heather Lind), the cop he fancies. They attempt to entrap Waxy but unexpected twists ensue. With its garish costumes from Kaye Voyce and lively game-show-style lighting by Justin Townsend, and fun, feisty characters, The Nap has the makings of a ribald romp – if one full of unwelcome trans jokes.
But inexplicably director Daniel Sullivan gives the entire endeavour the measured pace of a serious family drama.
The snooker scenes with their droll commentators are funny and gripping, as Schnetzer must, in real life, score against a pro snooker player.
Some performances are charming – puffed-up Conlee is a delightful buffoon and the befuddled Schnetzer exudes sincerity and sweetness – but a handful of dodgy accents and a misjudged directorial approach drag down the comedy.