When you look through the list of accolades that writer, director, and producer David E. Talbert has received, you can’t help but be a little impressed with the playwright who is working his way to the big screen. Once you win an award that labels you best playwright, there is a certain standard that you should be held to with the works that follow, and if I were to simply judge his talent based upon how A Fool and His Money turned out, well, best playwright wouldn’t be a label I’d be throwing around.
There is a lot to like about the first half of this production; though the down-on-their luck family may feel a bit stereo typical, it’s hard to not relate to this family that is struggling, especially in today’s economic climate. The father is working hard to keep a roof over his family’s head and steer his children in the right direction so they can have a better life than he does. But no matter how hard he tries, it just never seems to be enough. To help make ends meet their son has been skipping out on school to work, but this has caused his grades to slip which means he’ll have to quit the job to focus more on school. The daughter though is seeing a guy that that the mother disapproves of, but her father seems to be okay with him because he believes the guy is taking good care of his little girl, but of course the mother sees the boyfriend for what he really is but just can’t seem to change her daughter’s mind. Already we have plenty of drama, when the father loses his job and the bills are already piled so high that his marriage is at a breaking point.
But as luck would have it, this family strikes it rich after they win a million dollars from a radio contest. Everything should turn in the right direction for the Jordan family as they discuss the good that will come from their new-found fortune. But greed works its way through the family, and quickly their funds dry up.
Now at this point everything was mostly working. There was a solid play with some decent dialog. The performances, while not great, were still pretty good. But mostly this was still a story you could relate to about how money can change a person for better and for worse. For some reason, though, the story changes gears and takes this mild family fantasy and brings it into the land of absurdity. Suddenly we discover the part time job the son had was dealing drugs for his sister’s boyfriend and that he owes the dealer ten grand. Guns are pulled and threats are made. Then to complicate things even more the sister’s ex-boyfriend, who has been gone for two years, comes back to rekindle their relationship after he has been in the Navy all this time.
I’m all for a plot twist, but this just felt so out of place, and the story just completely fell flat from this point on. I’m all for a great showdown with guns and drug dealers handing out empty threats about doing such and such to the family. But it doesn’t belong here. I know he’s the writer; this is his story, but come on, this is a family comedy/drama. It would be like watching an episode of Family Matters and having an episode where Urkel pulled a gun on Laura and demanded money or else. It’s just absurd.
If you’re a fan of Talbert’s work then maybe you’ll see something in this that somehow I’ve missed, but really I don’t know what to say about this. The first half was enjoyable, but everything after just brought it all down which is unfortunate.