Review by: Rebecca Costie
Ken: It’s like a sickness.
Eddie: Only when you lose, Dad.
A powerful insight. A powerful moment. There are many of both in Betting on the Riverman, a play about Eddie Versace, a gambling addict who has racked up a large debt and is scrambling to find a way to reimburse the lender.
The audience follows Eddie (Rick Kanary), holed up in a room in a casino, a home-away-from-home, as he makes desperate attempts to convince Val, his ex-wife (Kimberly Jonasson), and Ken, his father (Julian Nicholson), to pay the debt. Eddie’s attempts are bookended by two encounters with Grace, the debt collector (Carol Riddell).
Eddie’s situation is a springboard for an exploration of family dysfunction, unresolved hurt, and addiction’s effects. These explorations are compelling because of the strong acting skills of the entire cast. Grace is a con, and Riddell successfully creates a skin of phoniness for this character. Jonasson’s performance begins with some hesitation, but it gains strength as she delivers Val’s reflections on Eddie and the impact of gambling on their relationship. From beginning to end, Kanary and Nicholson impress. They become their characters – fully and completely – and this makes possible a very authentic portrayal of a broken father-son relationship.
My only complaint is that the show is only 45 minutes long. A production of this quality creates a craving for more.