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Review: 'The Gambler's Daughter' not a safe bet

January 10, 2013|By Philip Brandes
  • Laura Michl, from left, Tyler Derench, Edmund Wyson and John Dickey depict a dysfunctional family reunion in "The Gambler's Daughter" at the Eclectic Company Theatre.
Laura Michl, from left, Tyler Derench, Edmund Wyson and John Dickey depict… (David Nott )

Lies, damn lies, and statistics all figure in “The Gambler’s Daughter,” Paul North’s new play about a mathematically gifted career gambler’s troubled home life. Unfortunately, numbers don’t tell the whole story when it comes to fully realized characters, and the piece battles long odds with limited success in a problematic debut staging at the Eclectic Company Theatre.

In a small town two hours outside his Las Vegas stamping ground, professional gambler Lloyd (Edmund Wyson) faces a losing hand trying to mend fences with his estranged daughter, Mary (Laura Michl), who unexpectedly arrives with her easily-corrupted fiance (J.R. Mangels) in tow. Mary is an actuary who inherited her father’s computational abilities but applies them to more conventional ends.

Lloyd can’t keep the seedier elements of his professional environment from spilling into the suburban refuge he shares with his cranky, wheelchair-bound father (John Dickey), a trashy golddigger (C. Ashleigh Caldwell) and her neglected teenager (Tyler Derench), who may also be Lloyd’s son. Mary’s visit only amplifies the household dysfunctions, but will it be enough to effect change?

More to the point, does it matter? The stakes are never that high, and a generally miscast ensemble offers little reason for more than abstract interest in the outcome. Wyson’s Lloyd displays neither the hard edges of a seasoned gambler nor the supposed sex appeal that’s “done more with a smile than most men do with an engagement ring.” Neither Wyson nor Michl have any facility with the mathematical discussions that are fundamental to their characters.  

Brian E. Smith’s staging underserves North’s script. As a result, the conflicts are uninvolving and the sometimes sharp dialogue falls flat. You’re better off putting your money on a different horse.

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“The Gambler’s Daughter,” The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 10. $18 (Pay-what-you-can Jan. 13 and Feb. 3. (818) 508-3003 or www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

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