Aurora premieres ‘Swindlers,’ a dimwitted farce

Krystal Mosley and Mark Hernandez appear in the farcical comedy “Swindlers,” a world premiere continuing through June 5 at Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville.
Courtesy of Casey Gardner Ford

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Krystal Mosley and Mark Hernandez appear in the farcical comedy “Swindlers,” a world premiere continuing through June 5 at Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville. Courtesy of Casey Gardner Ford

“Swindlers,” a world-premiere co-production between Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre and the New York-based organization Broadway Factor, is billed (excusably enough) as a “farce” and touted (somewhat prematurely) as a “blockbuster hit” in the program notes.

That last part remains to be seen, in the long run, but the prestigious pedigree of its producers is doubtless. Two of them, William Fernandez and Jim Kierstead, most recently collaborated on a short-lived Broadway musical version of the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and their individual credits include such other Broadway shows as “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” and “American Son” (Fernandez), and “Kinky Boots,” “Hadestown” and the current revival of “Company” (Kierstead).

Just as unmistakable, though, is the fact that “Swindlers” marks the professional debut of a first-time playwright, Chris Anthony Ferrer. As staged by director Ivan R. Lopez (who, like Ferrer, hails from Miami), the far-fetched comedy is as laborious in its execution as it is lamebrained in its concept. Not even a suitably “mesmerizing,” Broadway-scale set by local scenic designer Julie Ray can get past that.

The action unfolds in a luxurious Miami mansion, where a pair of dimwitted home invaders stumble upon much more than they bargained for. They’re anything but “sneaky, stealthy and quiet,” as their ringleader describes the job. He’s Jerry (Rene Granado), code-named “Cobra,” kind of a Moe to the other stooge’s Curly. That’s Miles (Mark Hernandez), code-named “Pebbles,” who leaves fingerprints everywhere he goes, and who, when a nearby telephone suddenly rings, stops to answer it.

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Aurora’s comedy “Swindlers” co-stars Rene Granado (left) and Mark Hernandez. Courtesy of Casey Gardner Ford

Credit: Casey Gardner Ford

Aurora’s comedy “Swindlers” co-stars Rene Granado (left) and Mark Hernandez.
Courtesy of Casey Gardner Ford

Credit: Casey Gardner Ford

Combined ShapeCaption
Aurora’s comedy “Swindlers” co-stars Rene Granado (left) and Mark Hernandez. Courtesy of Casey Gardner Ford

Credit: Casey Gardner Ford

Credit: Casey Gardner Ford

No sooner have they discovered in an upstairs bedroom the presumably murdered body of the millionaire who owns the place than guests start showing up for a previously scheduled party, like the eccentric cast of characters from an Agatha Christie mystery. Of course, Jerry and Miles do the most implausible and nonsensical thing possible by pretending to be the dead host and one of his servants.

The first on the scene is the vaguely alluring Jenna (Krystal Mosley), whom they initially confuse for a high-end escort of sorts, at least until the arrival of her fiance, Marcus (Cristian Gonzalez), whereupon it seems they may be business partners at an art gallery or auction house, or something like that — not that such details really matter a hoot in the not-so-grand scheme of the play.

Other potentially offensive stereotypes on view include a Middle Eastern oil magnate, Awadi Hassan (Tamil Periasamy), and his hulking bodyguard, Yasser (Marcus Hopkins-Turner); a feisty Cuban caterer, Marisleidy (Rose Bianco), and her assistant, Bertica (Irina Vazquez), who doubles as a violinist to provide mood music for the occasion; and Jeremiah Clive (Chris Kayser, bless his heart), a colorfully attired British musician (kudos to costume designer Ivan Ingermann and wig designers Lindsey Ewing and Emily Grace Blackstone), an aging glam rock star-turned-prominent record producer.

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Veteran Atlanta actor Chris Kayser is featured in the cast of the Aurora comedy “Swindlers.” Courtesy of Casey Gardner Ford

Credit: Casey Gardner Ford

Veteran Atlanta actor Chris Kayser is featured in the cast of the Aurora comedy “Swindlers.”
Courtesy of Casey Gardner Ford

Credit: Casey Gardner Ford

Combined ShapeCaption
Veteran Atlanta actor Chris Kayser is featured in the cast of the Aurora comedy “Swindlers.” Courtesy of Casey Gardner Ford

Credit: Casey Gardner Ford

Credit: Casey Gardner Ford

Nary a one of them is exactly what he or she appears to be, but as the plot hypothetically thickens, most of their agitated antics involve the acquisition of the coveted Persian Rose, a large diamond valued at $300 million. The body count proceeds to mount, but not before an impromptu musical interlude, with the cast performing a silly riff on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

Whatever twists and turns the play takes feel random and arbitrary, as opposed to organic or well-grounded. Even a mind-numbing farce ought to show a bit of common sense. “Swindlers” culminates with an inordinate amount of “straight talk,” so to speak, lots of exposition all about the motivations and actions of the characters — which isn’t the best sign for a would-be funny and physical comedy.


THEATER REVIEW

“Swindlers”

Through June 5. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. $10-$59. Strickland Grand Stage (at the Lawrenceville Arts Center), 125 N. Clayton St., Lawrenceville. 678-226-6222. www.auroratheatre.com.

Bottom line: Awfully forced.