A Sagacious Hunch
nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
August 13, 2008
Sagacious (from Dictionary.Com): "having or showing acute mental discernment and keen practical sense; shrewd: a sagacious lawyer." Or, in the case of this play: a sagacious car thief. Or maybe his wife was the sagacious one. Or, of course, it could have been the two cops who were sagacious. No one is inordinately sagacious, however—most of the characters are pretty bumbling in fact.
Watching the play, it feels like a bunch of guys in the precinct decided to get together and put on a play (this turned out not to be the case, although it would have been fun if it were). While the enthusiasm is there, the production standards and overall acting are uneven. Mimed doors move around and even disappear at points. Money looks like large Monopoly money and when a character asks for $315 in twenties, a ten, and a five, she is presented with three oversized $1 bills. Long and frequent set changes make the play drag and give us too much time to think of other things. Yet despite all of this, there is inexplicable heart to the production that keeps us laughing with the production rather than at it.
A Sagacious Hunch is written and directed by John McDermott (who also plays one of the detectives). Here's the premise: two detectives are on a stake-out (which means they sit in the police van and read papers and chat and bet tips they get from Lenny the car thief). Franky Windows Oliva is a bad guy with a ditsy girlfriend and he is not happy with Lenny. As for Lenny's wife Rita, she isn't too pleased with him herself; they've been separated for a few months, which has been very hard on their young son, Billy. But love him or hate him, all of the characters would agree that there's nobody like Lenny (although as an audience member I found him one of the least interesting and most mundane written characters).
The play features nine actors with some of the most fun and over-the-top (but I believe genuine) New York and New Jersey accents. Jerry Olivo wins the prize as the Mafioso Franky Windows Oliva, with an incredible deep, throaty voice and acting worthy of The Godfather. Heather Shisler has some great comic moments as Lo-la "the annoying bank teller." Meanwhile, Jeremy Fernandez and Alexandra Zabriskie (as Billy and Rita) offer some very real, very warm, performances. The most poignant moment of the play comes when Billy tells his father how he sees other boys get hugged by their fathers and that he would never get too old for this. Lenny tells his son that he could always ask for a hug, and then promptly walks out (without giving him one!).
If you want to be a sagacious audience member, I would recommend going into this show looking to have a fun time with some interesting characters and not to over-analyze the plot or production values.