FORT WORTH The smartest comment from one character in John Kolvenbachs botched-crime comedy Bank Job, having its world premiere at Amphibian Stage Productions, alludes to the fact that the best way to get away with a bank robbery is to be a bank executive. If we learned anything from the 2008 crisis, its how the rich and powerful can pretty much do what they want.
Of course, not all of those bankers walked away without penalty, and throughout Kolvenbachs frequently funny but uneven comedy, the question of getting away with it is in the back of the mind for the audience and the five characters onstage. Will anyone walk away unscathed? Probably not, and were all the better for it.
Taking place in an executive washroom at a bank (spot-on scenic design by Bob Lavallee), we first meet brothers Russell (Leicester Landon) and Tracey (Marshall York), who have just held up the bank in clown masks and plan to make their exit through a window. Its their first go at such a crime or any crime, really and we learn much about their relationship and motives in the first scene.
Thats when we also meet bank teller Jill (Alexandra Lawrence), who had done a no-no by using the mens room and the executive one at that and was there when the robbery happened. Soon, cop Dale (William Earl Ray) and exec Francis (Michael Muller) enter the picture.
For much of the 90 intermissionless minutes, its a whos-on-first scramble to see whos going to leave with any of the $14 million the brothers have in their large duffel bags. But theres also a sweet love-at-first-(gun)sight subplot, themes of identity crises and a bigger story of familial dysfunction.
When Kolvenbach fires on all cylinders, Bank Job which reaches farcical levels warrants uproarious laughter. The early section in which three characters lie on the ground with their hands behind their backs is one of the funniest scenes youll see all year, and its handled with rapier timing by this cast and director Jessica Bauman.
There are a few times when the dialogue feels out of place, as if it belongs in another play, such as Jills dreaming-in-color speech.
Lawrence makes her local acting debut here, and she gives the most consistent performance as a very likeable 20-something whos clearly not happy with her life and seizes an opportunity to change it.
The casting of York and Landon as brothers is curious. Its hard to tell which one is supposed to play the straight man (or as close to it as possible) to the others comic doofus. The latter, youd think, would be Russell, played by Landon with lost-at-sea cluelessness and a surfer-dude vibe. Tracey had his life together hes a doctor but Yorks penchant for rubber-faced mugging calls his motivations into question. More often than not, though, the dynamic works. Is there a need for the straight man when both are misguided in their own way?
Despite some hold-ups in the writing, the play is clever in its melding of a backstage comedy (the stage outside the washroom door has an even bigger drama going on) and a story about family members who, in the end, care for one another.
Bank Job will go down as one of Amphibians more memorable world premieres and should be a hit. Getting away with it has rarely been this much fun.