note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Sheila Barth
They’re slick,savvy, conjuring up con games at a dizzying pace, to spin on unsuspecting marks and each other.
In Lyric Stage’s production of Carla Ching’s comedic play, “Fast Company,” the motto is “The family that cons together, belongs together;” but with the Kwan family, they’re so busy ripping each other off, it’s tough to figure who’s getting the best slice of the action. Ching’s play is allegedly based on an actual event. Actor Nicholas Cage’s “Superman” comic book that’s worth $1 million was stolen and suddenly reappeared 11 years later. In “Fast Company,” the Kwans have it, intend to sell it- or claim they are - until the prized item becomes lost in their shuffle to out-con each other, grab the cash, and run. Ching says she wrote the play to figure out “why people screw over the people they love most,”
There’s a whole new language for theatergoers to imbibe, too. A “pig-in-a-poke” is a con game dating back to the Middle Ages, involving the sale of something in a bag or sack, sight unseen, that’s supposed to be a coveted item, but actually is an item of less value. There’s the “badger game,” too, where a victim is lured into a compromising situation, then blackmailed by the con’s accomplice.
Lately, we’re aware of “The Spanish Prisoner,” too, one of the oldest tricks of the trade, generally played on unsuspecting senior citizens. The con man claims a relative has been incarcerated in a foreign prison and requires bail, then promises to send the “mark” a handsome reward after authorities release the prisoner.
There’s the lingo, too. We know the words “mark,” and “lure,” but not “inside man,” the con artist who pulls off the swindle; the “roper,” who ropes in the victim by gaining his confidence before the swindle; and the”fixer,” who organized and coordinated the con.
There’s no snoozing during “Fast Company”. Aided by Annie Wiegand’s lighting, Garrett Herzig’s projections, beaming the next scene or set-up, and designer Cameron Anderson’s clever use of this tri-level set’s every inch, the actors are within touching distance of theatergoers. We’re willing voyeurs to this family’s plots and schemes, during flashbacks and capers.
Popular director M. Bevin O’Gara keeps this entertaining cast moving at breakneck speed, their timing impeccable. as we wade through the real, the actual, the fantasy, and these siblings’ biggest con, pulled on their mother, Mabel, (coolly portrayed by Lin-Ann Ching Kocar). Mabel’s offspring each possess his/her get-rich-quick-get-out-fast specialty. Portraying eldest brother Francis, or “Frankie,” Tyler Simahk is smooth, sophisticated, while younger brother, Henry, “H,” is awkward, less skilled. Michael Hisamoto’s breezy, portrayal as “H” is fun to watch, especially as he ratchets up his siblings’ consternation, while retaining their affection.
And Theresa Nguyen as young sister Blue is a high-spirited, ambitious crook, who’s determined to prove her mettle in this familial den of thieves.
However, Mabel’s the queen of cons. She holds the trump card, reining in her brood.
Or does she?