nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
August 20, 2011
Last year Scott Decker brought Prey—his suspenseful play about Paul, a mob boss turned avenging-angel who has been searching out, torturing and killing rapists in New York City—to the NY International Fringe Festival. Prey focuses on the interrogation and deadly torture of one of these men, Jack, at the hands of Paul and his loyal soldier, Tony. Decker's characters return to the Fringe this year, with a sequel, Felony Friday, a more ambitious and existential piece, that, while built on an interesting premise, often lacks focus on its central story and feels choppy and over-long.
At the top of Felony Friday, we find Paul sitting in a jail cell with a bevy of colorful characters: BBI, an older black man who's in for beating his wife's lover to death (played by well-known actor John Amos); Ricky, a seemingly muddled homeless man; and Tommy and Mark, who were caught in the middle of a sexual act behind a Radio Shack. Paul has been pinched for being pulled over with an 8-ball of coke in his trunk. They're all stuck in holding with each other for the weekend because no one can be booked 'til Monday morning. Everything seems like an average night with some fun prison banter until Paul gets a surprise visitor. Somehow Jack, his victim from Prey has returned from the dead, and is vowing to enact revenge on Paul for his part in his death. But as the play winds on, it becomes clear that Jack isn't really Jack, but an agent of the devil, and the place they're spending their weekend may not actually be a prison cell…
While the foundation Felony Friday starts on is intriguing, Decker struggles with the execution of his idea. Too often the play leaves Paul's story, which is the driving force of the show, to focus heavily on the stories of his supporting cast in the jail. This would work if their stories were blended seamlessly into this overarching story, but more often than not, the central plot comes to a screeching halt for a seemingly mundane conversation. For example, after a suspenseful climax at the end of the first act where "Jack" threatens to murder Paul's sister, the second act opens as if none of this has happened. A brand new character is introduced—CJ, a drug dealer—who doesn't really impact the main story all that much (though extremely well-played, with subtlety and nuance, by Jaime Lincoln Smith), and the prisoners have a conversation about all of the different racial slurs people have for black people. This conversation goes on for 25 minutes before Paul's sister is even mentioned again, and nobody seems too concerned about what's transpired, including Paul himself. These character-developing moments tend to disturb the flow of play, rather than complement the themes. The staging of these particular moments doesn't help the script all that much either, as the character it centers on takes focus and all of the other performers seem to shrink into the background; it doesn't allow them to engage in the moments. Thus, the pacing suffers and the show feels like it runs much longer than its already hefty 2.5 hours.
The cast, for the most part though, keeps the audience with the show. Decker reprises his role of Jack and is brimming with energy throughout. Sometimes his lightning pace and spark-plug vitality seem a bit detached and affected but, overall, he's fun to watch. Marc Sinoway, as Tommy, the gay prostitute caught servicing his boyfriend behind Radio Shack, is perfect. He hits every moment and joke he's given, and delivers a flawless blend of acerbic wit, sassiness, and vulnerability. Everyone is fully committed in their performances, but there is only so much that can be done, with how the script is currently structured.
Felony Friday has very interesting, well-developed characters, but it acts like a character study far too often when it already has so much plot to get through. Because of this choppiness, the stakes, which should be rather high, sometimes feel nonexistent.