THE BOWLING PLAY, presented by Second Generation at Shea’s Smith, is as sweet a farce as they come

THE BASICS:  THE BOWLING PLAY, a farce by Buffalo playwright Kelly Copps, directed by Amy Jakiel, presented by Second Generation Theatre, starring Connor Graham, Alexandria Watts, Jacob Albarella, Nick Lama, Adam Yellen, Sofia Matlasz and Rick Lattimer. 2/23 – 3/10. Thu – Fri 7:30, Sat 8:00,  at Shea’s Smith Theatre, 658 Main St, Buffalo. 716-847-0850

Runtime: 90 minutes without intermission

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  Pete, a nice 40-ish fellow, divorced, once again trying the dating game after years of no second dates, has only met “The Girl” online.  But he’s arranged to meet her one afternoon on familiar ground at the bowling alley where his team practices four evenings a week.  However, since he told the other three guys that he couldn’t practice that evening, they’ve moved up practice to that same afternoon.  At first, pissed at Pete for his subterfuge, they ultimately come around to try to help him out, including figuring out her name, which Pete has never actually learned.  

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION:  There are, by my count, eight fine plays and musicals on stage right now in Buffalo as February moves into March, all deserving of an audience, and they are all selling tickets for the next two weekends, some a bit longer into next month.  So why should THE BOWLING PLAY be your choice?  Because it’s funny as hell, sweet, well-directed, wonderfully acted, and it’s produced by Second Generation where they do things right.  

This is a sitcom, short for “situation comedy” which, when on stage in a theater is often called farce.  Both sitcoms and farces are generally more dependent on the situation than on character development, there are misunderstandings and crossed wires, lots of quick exits and entrances, but one thing that makes THE BOWLING PLAY what I call a “sweet farce” is that we do get a peek into the character’s lives and there is a small amount of personal growth.  So it’s more than an episode of, say, “The Three Stooges” although Pete’s (played by Connor Graham) three friends, while not engaged in physical slapstick, do engage in verbal slapstick, and their comic timing is impeccable. 

About that.  The friends are the somewhat clueless Buster (Jacob Albarella), the observant CJ (Nick Lama), and the impatient Ronnie (Adam Yellen), three of the finest comedic actors in town.  Through years of honing their chops, coupled with I have no doubt some serious rehearsal time, it was all brought together with direction by one of Buffalo’s finest comediennes whose own comic timing is legendary, Amy Jakiel.  The woman knows how to get a laugh.

The play was written with the specific cast in mind, per Buffalo Rising’s Daniel Lendzian’s preview article (with video VO by the playwright) which you can see here.

Photos by Mark Duggan/Nickel City Headshots

“The Girl” whom Pete assumes is his internet date is played by the comedienne with the 100-watt smile, Alexandria Watts, star of the local Valu hardware store commercials, and here just as warm and inviting as she is on television.  Adding an element of zaniness are three bizarre characters, Willie, Artie, and Roger, all played by one actor who does weird well, Rick Lattimer.  While not moving the plot forward, those three characters do help to establish that just maybe a bowling alley wasn’t the best place for a first date.  But neither Willie, Artie, nor Roger can hold a creepy candle to the disturbing guy (offstage, never seen) who hands out bowling shoes as he delights in fondling the street shoes that he keeps as collateral.  

The set by Spencer Dick is hyper-realistic with those cheap molded benches you see at bowling alleys, complete with mild graffiti, and a bulletin board full of fake posters.  It’s a real Buffalo bowling alley.  And the music chosen by Chris Cavanagh is spot on, neither contemporary nor retro, just the sort of tunes mildly out of date that you’d expect.  Adding to the whole cheesy schtick are the costumes, including the bowling shirts that have the team name “Don’t Give a Split” and the bowling dress worn by actress Sofia Matlasz.

This play is just “so Buffalo.”  Good-humored with snappy dialog and it’s all about bowling.  As an old advertisement used to say “When life hands you a 7-10 split, go bowling.”  to which I would add “go bowling, or go see THE BOWLING PLAY.”

*HERD OF BUFFALO (  on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

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