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A CurtainUp London Review
House of Games
The original is a fiendishly elaborate bluff, counter bluff and super counter bluff con which was hard to anticipate and the new stage version retains some but not all of this excitement. Maybe the problem is as much to do with the inability of actors onstage to switch scenes unlike the film editor's ability to seamlessly change shot and location. The issue then is why take a brilliant film and turn it into a stage play? What does the new medium add, what does it take away?
Nancy Carroll in a Marilyn Monroe curled, blonde wig plays the psychotherapist Dr Margaret Ford, whose patient Billy Hahn (Al Weaver) tells her about his gambling addiction and the debt he owes to Mike (Michael Landes) of The House of Games poker club. It is Dr Ford's venture into this world of vice and gambling that drives the plot and her falling for Mike in one of those stories where nice girls are sexual prey for men they perceive to be dangerous adds spice. She thinks she can carry out an academic study of the hustler as material for a new book.
The world of the gamblers is a smoke filled bar, a seedy underworld peopled with wonderful but undsavoury characters: Trevor Cooper's Vegas Man, foul mouthed, unpredictable, a hardened gambler, John Marquez's pony tailed Bobby and Dermot Crowley's seasoned old Joey. Handsome hustler Mike shows Margaret some "tells", the giveaway signs that hardened gamblers learn to recognise in the inexperienced so that they can accurately assess situations. This new to her world fascinates Margaret adding a sexual frisson to the experience and she is drawn in. Upstairs the set is the psychiatrist's consulting room, clean and light and airy. Intelligence is not enough when faced with the streetwise. A lone guitarist plays in a red lit window as the scene changes from the office to the club.
The performances are mostly good with passable American accents but Lindsay Posner's production seems to make the plot's twists and turns predictable. Maybe we are just too sophisticated or the screen to page has failed for the reasons given above.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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