When I first saw that Woof! Theatre Productions was going to present its next show at the Dairy Center, it was listed as Bingo: The Musical. When I arrived for the show this past Saturday night, I noticed that the program had the title of the production as Bingo: The Winning Musical. I couldn’t help but wonder if the past few weeks of Charlie Sheen-anigans — particularly the birth of the new meme, “winning,” — had influenced the change in the play’s title.
After an extremely abbreviated amount of Internet-based research, I am guessing that, unfortunately, Mr. Sheen had nothing to do with the titular modification. (Regardless, go Team Crazy!) According to the Inter-webs, this bingo-centric play is commonly referred to as Bingo: The Winning Musical, Bingo: The Musical and merely Bingo. Just as there are any number of variations of the actual game, including, but not limited to, traditional, layer cake, smiley face and blackout, so, too, do there appear to be any number of acceptable variations of the play’s title.
Call it what you will, because by any name Bingo:
The Winning Musical would smell as sweet. Whether you are a life-long lover of bingo or an elitist snob who would rather be caught wearing white after Labor Day than set foot in a bingo parlor, this silly and slight little musical has something to offer you. In fact, Bingo! is so schizophrenic (or should I say, multiple personality disorder) in its shifting tone that it’s almost as if it were written by a committee made up of bingo-philes and bingo-phobes alike.
At times, Bingo: The Winning Musical plays like a love letter to the bingo set. Friendships are built upon, and sometimes torn asunder by, bingo night. Each player has her lucky seat, lucky charm, special daubers, ceremonial meal, bad beat story and on and on. Our leads, Vern (Melissa Fike), Patsy (Heather Frost) and Honey (Abby Boes), live for bingo night the same way that crackheads live to score another rock and bad Christians live for juicy neighborhood gossip.
At other times, Bingo: The Winning Musical plays like a joke on the fat girl everyone else decided to vote in as prom queen just so they could mock her mercilessly. Sure, bingo is, by and large, a game of the middle and lower classes. One does not generally find it in close proximity, say, to polo grounds or Four Seasons hotels. Yet the extent to which it and its players are derided by this musical seemed almost spiteful to me. Are all bingo die-hards so white trash? Is every bingo night really a cesspool of genetic flotsam and jetsam looking for husband number four or cigarette-of-the-day number 42?
I suppose those questions may be a bit weightier than the play intended. After all, this is the type of show in which you can spot the key conflict within the first five minutes, surmise the “big surprise” 10 seconds after a certain one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other character takes the stage and know with a certainty rivaling that of gravity what the outcome will be well before the halfway point. What’s truly amazing is that despite its predictability Bingo: The Winning Musical is so lighthearted and, for those in the correct mindset, enjoyable.
All three leads seem to be having a grand old time. Alpha female, Vern, barks and berates. Superstitious, meek Patsy frets and follows.
Stereotypically blonde Honey dithers and lusts. The object of Honey’s obsession is none other than the bingo caller, Sam (Stephen Anson in his first performance ever — or possibly just with Woof! — the program is unclear). These four are joined by bingo matron Minnie (Maureen Cassulo); ghost of bingo past Bernice (Barbara Porreca); the mysterious stranger, Alison (Christine Sharpe); and the everyman, Frank (Greg Belfor).
It’s probably only a matter of time until Yahtzee (working title: Things Are Gonna Get Dicey) or Battleship (working title: You Sank My Battleship!) get the musical treatment. Until then, you can try your luck with Bingo: The Winning Musical.
On the Bill
Bingo: The Winning Musical plays through April 2 at the Dairy Center for the Arts. Tickets are $19-$23. 2950 Walnut St. For tickets or information, call 303-444-7328, or visit www.thedairy.org.