Never the Same Rhyme Twice, Mary-Arrchie Theatre. What’s most intriguing about a great con artist is that, even if you know you’re being conned and watch his every move, he can still fleece you and leave you wondering how he did it. But unlike classics in the con artist genre (The Sting) and not-so-classics (David Mamet’s overwrought House of Games), Rooster Mitchell’s entertaining but somewhat unsatisfying one-act fails to lead anywhere the least bit unexpected.

As in all cons, the setup is key. Four tough Bronx con artists meet to drink, smoke, play cards, and settle some old scores. Imagine the classic poker scene from The Odd Couple rewritten by Quentin Tarantino and Sam Kinison for an all-female cast. Charlie (Ellie Weingardt) is a foul-mouthed floozy with a pronounced lack of tact (“I say you’re a bunch of low-rent Kmart whores for starting without me”). Tommi (Ivana Bevacqua) is a brawling, cigar-smoking JAMP (Jewish-American Mafia Princess) in a crumbling marriage. Sam (Dado) is a street-smart, brooding lady with a surprising capacity for deceit and vindictiveness. And Jo (Rebecca Behrman) is a granola-crunching New Age con artist who nevertheless knows her way around a firearm.

Under the direction of Rich Cotovsky, Mitchell’s repartee crackles. Fireworks are inevitable, but they’re still far too predictable. All the revelations and conflicts feel contrived, implausible. And the play’s violent conclusion is messy and ungraceful–qualities a true con artist would abhor. We keep waiting to no avail for a hook, a surprise, a con. The result is a very enjoyable first-act setup for a second act that never comes. –Adam Langer

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Daniel Guidara.