By Thom deMartino
Baa baa black sheep, have you any… jewels? Or maybe some stacks of $100 bills?
In “Three Bags Full”, directed by Chris Coleman and now playing at the Westminster Community Playhouse, Bascom Barlow (a show-stealing Jack Bernaz) is a successful entrepreneur in 1904’s New York City. “B.B.” has it all: a thriving sporting goods business; a loving wife, Genevieve (Susan Levinstein); a lovely, feisty (if progressive, for the time) daughter, Angela (Amber Toomey); and an over-eager (verging on manic) — clerk working under him, Richard Foyle (Charlie Rodriquez).
But while B.B. is content with his business and life in general — much to the chagrin of his daughter (with whom he spars over high societal mores, and harangues about reading “that socialist” George Bernard Shaw), the animated Foyle is an innovator, explaining to his boss his plan to get in on the newest fad: roller skates! B.B. is, needless to say, unamused… and has no intention of investing in his underling’s seemingly crackpot scheme.
But no worries, Foyle already has an investment plan — using the $500,000 he’s already embezzled from the company (with plans to pay back, of course…)
Furious, B.B. springs to the phone, determined to report this misappropriation to the police… until Foyle persuades him otherwise, citing the potential scandal for the company. Instead — how about a raise? So he can ask his well-off paramour to marry him?
Taken aback by the sheer audacity, the businessman is even more bowled over to find that the young woman the intrepid clerk intends to propose to is his very own daughter! To top it off, being suspicious of banks, the young man has split his ill-gotten gains into two bags — one with a quarter-million in diamonds, the other with a quarter-million in bundled stacks of $100 bills… and then, in a show of good faith, he gives the bag of diamonds to B.B. to hold on to.
But who wouldn’t have a few larcenous thoughts of their own, with $250,000 in their hands? And in whose hands will that bag remain — and which bag, at that?
Theaters in Orange County have been struggling for some time now, and having closed doors for the better part of a year didn’t help: many never recovered. And yet, as they raise the curtain on their 61st season, the Westminster Community Playhouse remains one of those special few beacons of hope for the O.C. theater-going community.
“Three Bags Full” is an unusual treat: a madcap game of Three-Card Monte where the audience themselves are unsure where the desperately sought valuables lie (or even who the true con artist is)… all the while engrossed with the various characters’ intricate backstories.
There’s daughter Angela (or “Veronica”, as she would like to be called), a forward-thinking woman — if rather entitled by birthright — who couldn’t care less about high society; Irish maid Kathleen (Hillary Mead), a woman with sights set on a happier life, rather than her current lowly domestic position; Jeanette (Christine Carver), the mysterious young lady who appears at the door and startles B.B. with an opportune confession; and steadfast, if recently unemployed chauffeur Eduardo (played by the always affable WCP staple, Eduardo Mora), who has expectant plans of his own with the Barlows.
A marvelous opening production for WCP’s new season, “Three Bags Full” is an entertaining, delightfully dizzying switcheroo of who’s who, who’s got what, and in the end, who’s going to come out on top… even if you’re never quite sure which is con artist, which is the mark — or is there even a difference?
“Three Bags Full” stars Jack Bernaz, Charlie Rodriquez and Amber Toomey star in this whirlwind of deception, duplicity, dreams and dollars. Playing through Sunday, Oct. 17 at the Westminster Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St, Westminster, CA 92683. Ticketing information available online at http://www.wctstage.org or call 714-893-8626.
Categories: Arts & Leisure