A contemporary comedy with a heart opened last night in front of a packed crowd on the University Theatre main stage.
“Roulette”, written by “American Pie” director Paul Weitz, portrays a stereotypical American family in all their dysfunctional glory.
The play opens silently as father Jon, played magnificently by sophomore theatre major Patrick Truhler, sits at his kitchen table and sips a cup of coffee.
All seems normal until he takes a revolver and a single bullet out of his briefcase. He loads the bullet into the gun as if he’s done it a hundred times before, puts it up to his head and nonchalantly pulls the trigger.
The chamber is blank and roulette is born.
Enid, played by senior theatre major Saralyn Leffel, is a normal, caring mother. In the true fashion of a desperate housewife, she is having an affair with the sleazy neighbor Steve, played by senior theatre major Joe Von Bokern.
Steve and his wife Virginia, played by sophomore theatre major Laura Kruegel, are the obligatory annoying next-door neighbors who think they’re part of the family.
Virginia is senile but gets laughs from the crowd when she constantly finds herself the only person left in the room.
Jon and Enid’s son is endearingly named Jock, played by sophomore theatre major Nick Stockwell. He’s juiced up on steroids but is actually a goofy and emotionally-shaken momma’s boy.
He and his sister Jenny, played by senior theatre major Stephanie Blair, constantly bicker like only brother and sister can. Borderline-gothic Jenny swears like a pirate and oozes cynicism.
As we meet each character, their own personal stereotype is displayed perfectly by the phenomenal cast. Each one is desperately trying to escape their painfully typical lives, whether it’s with alcohol, sex, push-ups, or a strange infatuation with Russian roulette.
Jon brings the family together to divulge his secret fascination with guns and his knowledge of Enid and Steve’s affair.
Mayhem ensues as each character individually freaks out about their problems. Jenny wants her boyfriend, Jock has “roid-rage” outbursts and Steve retreats to his safe place: the bathroom.
As Act 2 begins, the audience is forced to forget everything they thought they knew about the stereotypes of Act 1.
Jon comes back in a state of complete amnesia, and it forces members of the cast to re-invent themselves.
The greatest turn around comes from Jock. He remains dense but his attempts to re-introduce his father to the life he once knew are heartwarming and hilarious.
Act 2 is a sad and heart-felt departure from the laugh-out-loud material in Act 1.
The play ends with a fitting resolution. All the characters walk away content with what happened to them.
Weitz’s intricate writing is only overshadowed by the world-class acting in the production. If you like dark comedies, this play is for you.
“Roulette,” directed by Chris Shonka, is playing at the University Theatre, main stage, February 8-10 and 14-17 at 8 p.m. with a matinee on February 18 at 2 p.m.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Quincy Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org