How does that old saying go? Never con a con artist?
The swindlers in Carla Ching’s savvy, sharp-fanged and entertaining one-act “Fast Company” fail to heed that advice. And it gets worse: Their marks are members of their own family.
“Fast Company” (now receiving its Seattle debut from Pork Filled Players) resembles the great Stephen Frears film “The Grifters,” in that both portray a clan of grifters prone to crazy-making and dangerous family dysfunction.
These Chinese-American blood relations engage, for our amusement and occasional amazement, in an intricately plotted and neurosis-filled caper.
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As the heist genre demands, much of the fun of “Fast Company” is in the tale’s clever double crosses and crisscrosses. And without spoiling some nifty surprises, let’s just say that Blue Kwan (Sara Porkalob), an anxious college student who puts Game Theory to nefarious purposes, lands in a heap of trouble pulling an art job.
The coveted object is a rare comic book (the first Superman edition) that’s worth a fortune. But Blue’s plan quickly goes awry, forcing her into some painful collaborating and mutual back-stabbing with her crafty brothers Francis (Kevin Lin) and H (Brad Walker).
There’s no doubt, though, who the Kwan family mastermind is: Mable (Mariko Kita), the siblings’ tough-as-granite matriarch. She’s the kind of mom who’d test her little kids’ fortitude (and traumatize them forever) by dumping them penniless in the middle of nowhere, to get home on their own. She has also coolly coached them in the fine points of flimflam — and sneers at their attempts to go straight.
Ching (a writer on TV’s “Graceland”) has a flair for crackling noirish dialogue laced with plenty of swindler and applied math jargon. Under Amy Poisson’s crisp direction, on a minimal set “fleshed” out with projections, the committed cast stays on point, though Porkalob and Walker don’t give their schematic characters much texture. (The play is better at larceny than psychology.)
A poker-faced Kita injects chilly humanity into Mable. And Lin is aptly unpredictable as the mercurial Francis, who’s got a new scam. He’s become a David Blaine-style illusionist.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org