By Cari Lynn Pace
Many of life’s tragedies involve addiction. Theatre stages have presented poignant stories – dramas drawn from fantasy or reality – in the hopes that audiences will be both thoughtfully entertained and well warned. Cashed Out checks both boxes, admirably.
San Francisco Playhouse first presented a dramatic “zoomlet” – a 10-minute reading of a potential new play by Claude Jackson, Jr., during the pandemic. Patrons praised the reading touching upon gambling addiction, casinos, and the Native America community. Artistic Director Bill English recognized it as a story not often heard, and commissioned the playwright to expand it into a full script.
“Artistic Director Bill English recognized it as a story not often heard…”
SF Playhouse took great pains to assemble a cadre of Native American actors to ensure the authenticity of their world premiere. It’s a risk that pays off handsomely in Cashed Out. Director Tara Moses coaxed astounding performances from these largely Actors’ Equity members. They bring a glimpse of their culture, both proud and at times humbling, to the stage.
Cashed Out opens on an adobe duplex complete with terra cotta roof tiles on a reservation in Arizona, strikingly imagined by scenic designer Tanya Orellana. It’s dusty and dry, with a branch shelter and woven baskets in various stages of completion.
Rocky (Rainbow Dickerson) is a pretty young woman full of high spirits and bright expectations. She’s about to enter a local beauty contest and ignores Levi, her eager would-be boyfriend (Chingwe Padraig Sullivan). Rocky argues about native garb with her weary mother (Lisa Ramirez.) while her aunt Nan (Sheila Tousey) sagely serves as mediator. It is soon apparent that Nan is the solid rock in this turbulent family drama.
Flashbacks and fast-forward scenes intertwine as the stage rotates to show Rocky’s challenging journey with her gambling addiction. She’s hooked on a machine’s payout in a dark casino, dismissive with her young daughter Maya (Louisa Kizer) and desperately manipulative when she cajoles Levi to provide her with a character reference. Her family recognizes she needs help, but is powerless against Rocky’s stubborn and highly volatile character. Nan observes Rocky’s turmoil and shakes her head, sadly intoning “Imagine the eagle not trusting her own wings.”
Act I closes as Rocky continues to explode in an over-the-top performance, re-visiting her mother’s words “You’re not worthy” as mother weaves priceless Pima baskets. Thankfully, Act II opens on a brighter day. Rocky intones the Gamblers Anonymous mantra “I’m powerless over gambling” and appears to have cleaned up her act.
But addictions are not easily conquered, and never completely erased from an addict’s soul. When Rocky’s long-gone father (Matt Kizer) reappears, family tensions completely erupt. It’s quiet only when Rocky is absent, leaving her family tapped out and resigned.
Cashed Out is a hard-hitting and sadly true-to-life depiction of a gambler’s behavior. Rocky’s increasingly manic fantasy is thrown against irrefutable reality. In the sudden stark ending, neither side wins.
ASR Writer & Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a voting member of SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Written by||Claude Jackson, Jr.|
|Directed by||Tara Moses|
|Producing Company||San Francisco Playhouse|
|Production Dates||Thru February 25th|
|Production Address||SF Playhouse
450 Post Street
San Francisco, CA
|Tickets||$30 - $100|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?||YES!|