Comedy is very much in the eye and ear of the beholder. And so it's quite possible what I find funny about "The Nap," a new British comedy, is not your cup of tea at all. And considering it's centered on snooker, a game similar to billiards, and the characters are supposed to have thick Yorkshire accents, it might not translate well on this side of the pond. Yet, as the Brits might say, it had me potted.
It starts rather slow. Dylan Spokes is the 107th-ranked snooker player in the world, and he's getting ready for the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. The game is extremely popular in the United Kingdom, and Dylan is very serious-minded. But once playwright Richard Bean dispenses with the setup and we meet the rest of the cast, an unsavory bunch of characters, "The Nap" wakes right up.
Dylan's dad, an ex-con drug dealer, has memory lapses. His mother is a gambling floozy, her boyfriend has a body odor problem, and Dylan's sponsor, named Waxy Bush, a ruthless transgender gangster, is a serial language killer. Add to this strange brew an overzealous agent and an unlikely pair of cops, and what we've got are the makings of a hilarious farce.
It's heavily plotted with twists and clever word play that's both silly and irresistibly witty, and it ends with a genuinely suspenseful climax as we watch Dylan and his opponent, a real-life snooker champion, compete in close-up for the world title. Take note: Either of them could win.
This is an incredibly difficult play to stage. Comic timing is crucial and pacing can't flag. Happily, the cast nails it. But if "The Nap" isn't quite up to Bean's most famous work, "One Man, Two Guvnors," which won a Tony Award for its star James Corden, it is, under Daniel Sullivan's capable direction, a close second.
I have to confess, when I said it had me potted, I don't even know if that makes any sense — it just sounded complimentary. Such is the contagious effect of Bean's odd-ball comedy, a work so refreshingly novel, it defies description.