After two years away, Bay Street Theater’s MainStage season has returned to the venue’s stage with the East Coast premiere of Scooter Pietsch’s dark comedy Windfall, directed by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame. Like “the show about nothing” and successors like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, this play takes a satirical look at the depths a group of friends will stoop to when their selfishness and greed go unchecked. And like with all expertly executed dark comedy, it is hilarious.
Windfall takes place in Columbus, Ohio where four work friends toil away at Brannon Data Entry under the soul-crushing leadership of the company’s namesake, Glenn Brannon (Spencer Garrett). Despite their differences in work ethic, morals and backgrounds, Kate (Badia Farha), Hannah (Abigail Isom), Chris (Dylan S. Wallach) and Galvan (Ro Boddie) are a tight-knit group who hang out, goof off and tease, but never judge too harshly.
When Brannon introduces a new employee, Jacqueline (Talia Thiesfield), poised to replace the weakest performing worker, cracks begin to show as signs of panic and ego appear.
When Galvan has a vision of winning hundreds of millions in the lottery, he convinces his friends, as well as Jacqueline, to up the ante of their group lotto ticket ritual and spend every penny they own to ensure his vision comes true. When the winning ticket goes unclaimed, the friends suspect a traitor in their midst and things get … messy.
The plot is simple to understand and easy to relate to in concept, allowing the actors to deliver outrageous lines at breakneck speeds. Though the flow of the second act is more predictable than the first, by that point in the show, the physical dark comedy is so far through the roof, most of the audience is too busy gut-laughing to notice or care.
Speaking of physical comedy, the crown for funniest punching bag must undoubtedly go to Dylan S. Wallach. His brilliant overacting in response to his character’s injuries had the audience in stitches more than anything else in the show, so it’s smart directing/casting to have him receive most of the beatings throughout the show. Beyond that, Wallach’s zany, childlike character was a delight to watch from start to finish. What his character lacked in emotional depth, he more than made up for with masterfully timed and executed comic relief.
Among the work friend group, the most engaging and well-crafted relationship was between the characters portrayed by Badia Farha and Abigail Isom, which served as the underlying heart of the story. Farha exudes unabashed confidence, which plays off of Isom’s nervous capriciousness beautifully. Their portrayals of Kate and Hannah were sincere and engaging as they juggled the complex friendship between skillful office manager and unskilled employee.
As the main driver of the plot, Ro Boddie’s character has a heavy responsibility placed on his shoulders, and he doesn’t miss a beat. His performance ranges from hilariously overzealous Bible thumper to a nuanced, embittered man desperate for recognition. In recounting a memory of Galvan’s first vision, Boddie masterfully guides the audience through the biggest tone shift in the show, with all eyes and stage lights on him as he delivers a powerful, emotion-packed monologue.
The newest member to the show’s work friend group, Talia Thiesfield’s Jacqueline develops considerably throughout the show. She’s introduced as a supposedly dangerous killer who turns out a quiet, mysterious outsider, she then reveals a sympathetic backstory before delving into craziness. Through each phase, Thiesfield acts with grace and gusto, making clear the cracks and triggers that permeate her refined façade. Her well-told backstory makes her fate in the second act particularly tragic, which is undoubtedly why she’s chosen to deliver the moral of the play sincerely before the show’s antagonist doubles down sarcastically.
While not a villain, per se, Glenn Brannon is as antagonistic as they come, and Spencer Garrett is clearly having the time of his life in the role. Every wrench thrown into his employees’ plans is accompanied by a devilish smile, every crass remark or biting comment receives a hearty laugh from Garrett and the audience. He hijacks every scene he’s in with his magnificent gravitas, and despite considerable time on stage, it’s hard not to wish he was present in even more scenes. At least when he’s not actively onstage, he can often be scene peeking through his office window at the workplace shenanigans unfolding.
On the topic of the set, the Brannon Data Entry office is so immensely detailed that you can tell from the get-go there won’t be a second location, and that’s quite alright. Motivational posters juxtaposed by a tauntingly empty employee of the month wall, a clock that keeps track of the time within the narrative, windows that seemingly look out across the street, separate restroom doors that appear to open to actual rooms — the attention to detail is incredible.
Bay Street’s return to their main MainStage stage is a raucous success, and it’s thanks to the theater’s talented team of directors, actors, designers and whoever is in charge of cleaning up the stage and actors after each Windfall performance — they’ve got their work cut out for them, and it shan’t go unnoticed.
Visit baystreet.org for tickets and more information, or call the box office at 631-725-9500.