‘The Nap’ review: Richard Bean’s snooker farce a delightful Broadway comedy

‘The Nap’ runs through Nov. 11 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, manhattantheatreclub.com.

Snooker, an English billiards game that is similar to but distinct from pool, brings together a motley crew of small-town eccentrics, shameless hangers-on, criminals and sports enthusiasts in “The Nap,” a well-calibrated, verbally-charged comedy by Richard Bean (“One Man, Two Guvnors”), which is being produced on Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club.

It begins with Dylan (Ben Schnetzer, in his Broadway debut), a clean-cut 23-year-old rising professional snooker player. He takes the game extremely seriously, going through a series of pregame rituals in advance of the world championship series, taking place in his rural English hometown. A full-scale snooker table takes up much of the space onstage.

Dylan’s quietude is disrupted by a revolving series of encounters with his bumbling father (John Ellison Conlee), a former snooker player turned drug dealer; his gaudy mother (Johanna Day), who tries to sell steaks from her purse; his kooky manager (Max Gordon Moore); two random cops (Heather Lind and Bhavesh Patel) who are investigating whether a criminal syndicate paid Dylan to throw a recent match; and his sponsor (Alexandra Billings, “Transparent”), an imposing, one-armed, transgender gangster who goes by the name Waxy Bush.

In short, Dylan learns that due to a recent bet gone wrong (apparently based on the assumption by his family that he was sure to lose), he must either throw part of an upcoming game or quickly raise a huge sum of money in order to save his mother’s life, bringing the principled Dylan to a state of panic and into the hands of Eleanor (Lind), a pole dancer-turned-cop who shows up at his hotel room late at night in revealing nightclub attire.

As befits a farce, the craziness escalates in Act Two, using wordplay, surprises, identity reversals and physical action — which here takes the form of snooker matches played live onstage by Schnetzer and Ahmed Aly Elsayed (a real-life professional snooker player), complete with audio commentary, live multicamera filming, spectator cameos and a celebratory confetti blast.

The production (staged with an ear for comic timing and an eye for physical bits by Daniel Sullivan, who is best known for directing contemporary American dramas) is great fun with thick English accents and foul language. Just a few weeks following the death of Neil Simon, it is nice to see that an old-fashioned, silly-but-smart nonmusical comedy can still find a place on Broadway.

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