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Call Me Waldo

The Thrill of the Chase

Philip Gawthorne's overlong psychological thriller benefits from fine performances.

By New York City
Nicole Samsel and Kevin O'Callaghan
in The Thrill of the Chase
(© Julia Kinnunen Photography)
Nicole Samsel and Kevin O'Callaghan
in The Thrill of the Chase
(© Julia Kinnunen Photography)
Philip Gawthorne's The Thrill of the Chase, at the Drilling Company, provides a fine showcase for its young cast -- Kevin O'Callaghan, Ryan Barrentine, Nicole Samsel, Jenna D'Angelo -- all of whom add several helpful ingredients to this overwrought and decidedly over-long psychological tussle.

The resourceful O'Callaghan -- with his range of sinister smiles and provocative body language -- gives a performance worth watching as rich kid Charlie. After learning roommate and longtime best friend Nicky (Barrentine) has become engaged to girlfriend Izzy (Samsel), Charlie insists the union is a bad idea.

To prove he's right, he cajoles Nicky into betting that before the 30 days to the Las Vegas wedding are up, Nicky will realize his intended isn't worthy of him. If the nuptials remain intact, Charlie will fork over the posh apartment.

Turning on the slick charm he's honed since his neglected-child upbringing, Charlie from time to time makes as if he's falling in line with his chum's plans and even sets up a dinner where he cooks the couple a meal. But he's not entirely, or even slightly, on the up-and-up, even involving new girlfriend Faith (D'Angelo) in his nasty scheme.

While the playwright does have a talent for constructing intense scenes, he can't really create any real suspense. Indeed, the audience is on to every plot turn. When Charlie finally owns up to his motivation for carrying on as he has, everyone in the house has to be thinking, "I've known that since early in the first act and now for the following two and a half hours."

The one element viewers are unable to provide a rationale for is why Nicky doesn't see through Charlie's transparent machinations. As Izzy demands toward the end of the attenuated second act, "What is it with you and this guy?

The perfectly logical query is left hanging, in large part because Gawthorne never supplies Nicky with persuasive arguments for hanging back. Perhaps he lacks backbone, but no one lacks that much. Or perhaps there's some sort of sublimated same-sex attraction. But I think the best explanation is that if he didn't, there'd be no play.


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