Saturday, 20 September 2014

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Morals and mayhem collide in well-acted, superfunny Lotto Money

BIG SPENDERS: Heslop, as Sam DeSouza is a man on a mission. Below, Cunningham and Zacca.

"Money cures many ills, even heart attacks," someone philosophizes in the new-kid-on-the-block production Lotto Money, and it's a keen observation that rings frighteningly true, despite the obvious hint of shallowness, for the trio of characters who populate this sharply funny and smartly acted comedy that opened before a sizeable crowd at the Theatre Place in New Kingston on Friday night.

We follow Walter Nelson (Munair Zacca), a successful and well-respected radio talk-show host who has spent the greater part of his life on the air advising folks on how to lead principled lives. But all that talk gets thrown out the window apparently when he and his busybody wife Alzira (Dorothy Cunningham) discover that they've just won the $80 million Lotto jackpot. Champagne-popping and merriment ensues.

Their happiness is short-lived, however, when one Sam DeSouza (Peter Heslop), a small-time, down-on-his-luck man with relentless determination (depicted in a real country-bumpkin guise) appears out of nowhere, claiming that half of the sum had been promised to him. And as we soon realize, he'll stop at nothing to collect - even if that means haunting the Nelsons' residence with incredible regularity or getting his cantankerous relatives involved (which he does by the way, by phone at least). What plays out is a mind-boggling, fast-paced sequence of events that bring into sharp focus the themes of morality, human nature, and plain old-fashioned greed.

An "extensive adaptation" of a work by the late great Brazilian playwright John Bethencourt, Lotto Money finds veteran stage director Pablo Hoilett crafting a show that stands firmly on its own (with non-stop humour and eye-opening insights as its main assets), even when the dialogue occasionally grows wan. But the accomplished cast is the main attraction here, and they do not disappoint.  

While Zacca vigorously channels the self-important air of a big-shot coming to terms with his own slipperiness, Cunningham breezily reacquaints her long-time admirers of her penchant for portraying strong and nurturing Jamaican women possessed of the fierce ability to think promptly on their feet. Heslop, meantime, is a riot, nailing Sam's quirks and ticks and downright eccentricities with expert precision.

"The love of money is the root of all evil," the Good Book admonishes, but what Lotto Money vividly shows is its dual transformative power to corrupt lives and destroy relationships, juxtaposed with the often cruel distinctions of class and the ever-expanding disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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