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Mountain – Mount Vernon United Methodist Church

Remaining performances:

Saturday, July 19 at 11 p.m.

Wednesday, July 23 at 6 p.m.

Friday, July 25 at 10 p.m.

Saturday, July 26 at 6:30 p.m.

They say: Not every card is what it appears. The right hand can make dreams come true, but only if everything is on the line. Love, life, loyalty, that’s the bet, but really, who are the players?

Jonelle’s takeNot Every Card, digital animator Emanuel Wazar’s first effort in the world of theatre, is an homage to spy narratives like Ian Fleming’s twice-spun classic Casino Royale. Like Casino Royale, Not Every Card culminates in a high-stakes card game and is focused on something of an international playboy. What are the exact stakes of this card game? A list of rebels against the occupation. Occupation by whom of what, you may ask? It’s not entirely clear. How and why is the international playboy and cardshark, Vincent, engaged in all of this? Again, it’s up in the air.

Whether or not the vague exposition is intentional, it is clear that Not Every Card lovingly strives for the quick one-liners and cinematic charisma of Fleming’s James Bond. The play includes well-executed opening titles – with motion graphics designed by Wazar – that evoked the sexy opening numbers of every Bond film.  As is to be expected, there are two “Bond girls:” Emily Gilson’s Elizabeth, stubborn leader of the resistance movement, and Lainie Pahos’s Sebastian, a sultry redhead who is a partner in international espionage to Vincent, played by Jacob Clark.

Though Wazar’s aspiration to pay homage to 007 may have been entertaining in theory, the play’s language is a major barrier to getting to what may be a thrilling scenario. Time, place, character, and motivation are all obscured by overly wrought, but entirely unproductive dialogue. Wazar, the writer and director, takes an unexpected quarto page or two from the Bard: almost every character has a soliloquy intimating what might be their motivations and Sebastian drops into early Modern language on more than one occasion. Upon entering the room drunk, she flings away help, shouting: “Unhand me, boy! I am not a common villain.” There are references to the occupation, the resistance, and the opposition, but the audience is never quite sure who to side with. Nearly all of the dialogue is told in metaphor or suggestion, which is easier done in film than on the stage. A villainous general who speaks with what could be an Austrian or Russian accent is referred to only as Timothy.

Despite the incomprehensible script, Wazar pulls some great performances from his actors, particularly Pahos and Jonathan Miot as Felix, who with his classical demeanor and verve would shine were he to be cast as Benvolio or Lysander. Perhaps Wazar will turn Not Every Card into the film that it seems destined to be and offer these talented performers  another go at these roles. Even if the audience couldn’t be sure of what was happening at any given moment, the actors should get another shot to answer the question: but, really, who are the players?

See it if: You’re a James Bond fan who is shaken, but not stirred by a confusing plot.

Skip it if: You take your exposition neat.

Disclosure: The author of this post in the playwright of the Capital Fringe show TAME.