A Triumphant On The Money Returns to the Victory

Leigh Kennicott
StageHappenings.com
2014-01-31

It’s so nice to encounter an old friend recreated now in even better circumstances. I hate to reveal my age, but I saw the first incarnation of Kos Kostmayer’s On the Money when he was a playwright in residence at the Victory some 35 years ago. Now, co-founding artistic director, Tom Ormany, has brought the play roaring back to life with a suite of actors who constitute a smooth ensemble of unique characters coming together to improve their lots in pursuit of --- what else? --- money.

The Black River Cafe, updated on the Victory stage by the original set designer, D. Martin Bookwalter, is a rustic imitation of a Western style restaurant and saloon, owned by crusty Candy (character actor Vincent Guastaferro), whose heart of gold is submerged by his efforts to keep two restaurants afloat.

His employees, as usual, gripe about their pay, each reveal specific travails that keep their incomes hovering barely above the poverty line. Jack, The bartender (Jonathan Kells Phillips, wants to be an actor; outspoken waitress Nancy, (Maria Tomas) has a kid to support; Benny (David Fraioli) has to support his gambling habit. The delicate balance is tipped when Benny loses money one too many times, calling the bookies down upon him and each character faces the dilemma of supporting his hair-brained scheme to pay his debtors back.

Engaging performances are not restricted to the core group, however; Tony Maggio makes a great bookie; Cara Manuele and Robert Dominick Jones as rowdy patrons are fine; and Jeff Kober as T.C. Hopper is an ominous cowboy who shows up out of the blue.

Kostmeyer’s 1989 play is still fresh today due to tight dramatic construction, boasting a climax that is well prepared but hardly expected. He is ably supported by several who returned for a reprise of their original roles: Bookwalter’s sets and lighting provide the ballast for resident artists Bonny Baldwin’s costumes as well as Rob Corn’s integrative sound design and, especially, Ormany’s tight, knowing direction. If you missed it the first time, you shouldn’t resist On the Money now.

On the Money continues through March 2nd on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. at the Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank 91505. Tickets $22.00 to $34.00. Phone (818) 841-5421 or for more information, check www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.