The Numbers Game was divided into six episodes, two of which I, unfortunately, did not have the pleasure to watch as live theatre does not contain a replay option. This show ran as a theatrical multi-series production, with the review of episodes one and two available here.
The season finale tied down loose ends and brought with it the tragic message: all those who dwell in corruption end up losing. Queenie St. Clair (Karine Richard) loses the love and trust of her people when, on a streak of vengeance, she orders her loyal officer Bumpy Johnson (Ngabo Nabea) to take out the eight turncoat runners in Harlem. Dutch Schultz’ (Jamie Cavanagh) descent into madness costs him not only his associates but also his life. Meanwhile Bumpy, once a proud advocate of African American power, realizes that his journey to “righteousness” leaves him no better off than the white men he hates. Thus, he surrenders his services to Italian mob boss Lucky Luciano (Matthew Gouveia). In the words of System of a Down, “you should have never trusted Hollywood.”
I was most impressed by Dutch’s character development. Initially a dangerous man, Dutch shows his kind and vulnerable side when he confides in his employee Abbadabba Berman (James McDougall) about the origin of his making. Cavanagh opens up a window for the audience to see not just a merciless monster, but another man built from the circumstances of his life. Lying on his deathbed, Dutch, the once fearsome Baron of beer smuggling, cried out in agony and deliriously begged for his late mother to come to his side. Such a transition truly shows the talent of Cavanagh’s craft.
As my previous review discussed in some detail the general layout of The Numbers Game, I wanted to take an opportunity in this review to reflect on the larger picture – write about how this production reflects Toronto’s theatre culture. The Storefront Theatre, which hosted The Numbers Game, is a relatively small venue fitting (by my approximate count) no more than 50 audience members. Yet this confined space contained some amazing theatrical talent and The Pulp Collective introduced a refreshing mandate to the Toronto theatre scene. I truly hope that this review serves as encouragement for the company to continue putting on plays and have faith in their growth.
Directed by Benjamin Blais, The Numbers Game completed its run at the Storefront Theatre. For more information, visit http://pulpcollective.ca/numbers-game/.