Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Review)

In need of some subtlety to balance its goofy excess

Sep 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm

No swindle here: a professional cast, a polished design, an 11-player orchestra, a hot show just a few seasons removed from Broadway, a reasonable ticket price — all in comfortably posh surroundings at Covington’s Carnegie Center. For a musical about con artists, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is surprisingly on the level.

Still, we’re not completely taken in and there’s a hint why in the contrast between the leads: Lawrence Jameson (Mark Hardy) is cultured and sophisticated, a mature and patient extractor of millions from the lonely heiresses haunting the roulette tables of Beaumont-sur-Mer. His upstart competitor, Freddy Benson (Charlie Clark), is crass and juvenile, out for an easy lay and a quick buck.

Scoundrels, with its emotional heart (yes, the show has one) lying with Jameson, needs a director with the older scoundrel’s native elegance, higher sensibilities and impeccable taste. But Alan Patrick Kenny, the talented twentysomething who led the late New Stage Collective, is a lot more Freddy. He and his cohorts bring an entertaining flash and sass to this enterprise, and there’s comic gold in Clark’s performance. But for some, the production’s vulgarity will foil the seduction.

To be fair, the musical’s writing is coarse, with many laughs but little of the movie’s wit. Typical exchange: “I’m Muriel, of Omaha.” “Pleased to meet you.” “It’s mutual.” With lines like these, you might as well go for broke.

But a great con artist knows when to pull back. Especially in a venue as intimate as this, Scoundrels needs some subtlety to balance the goofy excess. It needs more credible accents than those on display here. And it needs to move. As of the Sept. 4 opening, the show hadn’t found its rhythm.

These faults aside, for an evening’s escape from the workaday world, Scoundrels is a safe bet.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, presented at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center’s Otto M. Budig Theatre, continues through Sept. 20. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.