‘Money and Run’ Rides Again

Matthew Gilworth, Rebecca M Davis and Anthony Lee Simmons

What a delightful feeling it is to wallow like a drunken hog in warm memories of fond and distant yesterdays! This is exactly why Theater Schmeater produced this new run of the venerable and beloved Money and Run series—to commemorate their 25th season. It’s a theatrical celebration, a grand revisiting of one of the most popular Schmee shows ever. The show, conceived in the buzzing brain of playwright and director Wayne Rawley, began its Southern-fried late-night shenanigans sometime at the tail end of the ‘90s, and held on tooth and claw, running sporadically until it just couldn’t anymore. The last time it played in Seattle was 2006.

Money and Run has a surprisingly simple and clever concept: a show modeled after a circa-1980 TV series (Dukes of Hazzard probably being its closest and most obvious parallel), presented as episodes in a series, complete with highly choreographed opening credits, “Last time, on Money and Run” episode recaps to catch you up, and “Next time!” teasers promising what’s to come. There is even a drawling, cornpone narrator who pokes his head in now and then to help scoot the plot along.

The Schmee is running the series’ first three episodes in rotation (there are a whopping nine episodes total in the whole series—I saw, “Of Nuns and Ninjas” for this review), with a different cast for each. There are 30 fine actors involved in the project, all in all. Some of these were in one or more of the original runs, and many you will recognize from other shows around town.

The series focuses on the escapades of the titular characters, “Run” (Andrew Shanks in this episode), a hard-bitten professional criminal, and his girlfriend “Money” (Zenaida Smith), a slightly less hard-bitten professional criminal. They are Southern bandits with the proverbial hearts of gold (“Sometimes you gotta do bad to do good!” Run is fond of saying), Mason-Dixon Robin Hoods out to steal from the rich (mostly their arch-nemesis, cigar-chomping Big Momma Bob), and give to the poor (mostly some hilarious nuns and some really whiny orphans).  

All the episodes share some familiar characteristics: painstakingly mapped slow-motion fight scenes set to butt-rock classics (lots of Queen and Styx); an adroit, mercurial, almost frenetic use of language (“well dust me off and call me, ‘Dusty’!”), and an audience that bends forward and backward to gush its adulation at the slightest provocation. The love these shows have always received is usually reserved for the Pope.

The production values have noticeably improved from the old days at the original Schmee location on Capitol Hill (she lives down in Belltown, these days). The set itself is a marvel of simplicity: an eccentric roadhouse that does duty as every conceivable location, from a children’s clinic, to an orphanage, to an outdoor compound, all by a quick change of signage. It all seemed much cleaner and slicker, without losing any of the original charm.

But it’s not 1999 anymore, that’s for damn sure. Poking fun at the hearing impaired, alcoholic POCs, poor Southerners and the word “cripple” only highlighted how white, well-heeled and Northern the audience was.

This new run is sure to cultivate a whole new generation of fans. Shanks and Smith are excellent in their roles, and their chemistry is sassy and fun. A highlight was definately Jordan Michael Whidbey as the sweet and tricky town drunk, OT, and the back-flipping, fist-fighting head nun Sister Crystal Mighty was a serious hoot.  But as is often the case in every iteration of Money and Run, Big Momma Bob is the real star of the show, roiling and raging around the stage like a perpetually pissed Yosemite Sam in a $10 wig. Alyssa Bostwick was the best Big Momma I’ve ever seen. Money and Run veterans will get a top-grade fix from this slick re-staging, and the newbies will become veterans soon enough.

In its current incarnation, the run will feature two episodes on weeknights, but you can see all three back-to-back on Saturday nights, and I encourage that you do. Who knows when this gem shall pass this way again?

Money and Run runs through June 10.