Set in the not so distant past, Flamingo & Decatur presents Las Vegas circa 2008. The banks have bet heavy on the housing market never self correcting. Surprise, surprise, it turns out everyone was playing with a bum deck and suddenly there are a lot more empty homes than there use to be. Taking advantage of this situation is Jackson (Jason M. Shipman), a self-styled “sports investor” who figures no one will mind him and his business partner moving into a recently foreclosed luxury home. The neighbor does mind, however, and decides to blackmails him to the tune of $500 a month. Jackson handles the situation by subletting the place to a fellow gambler who has no idea she is more a trespasser than a renter.
Written by Todd Taylor and presented as a world premier by Block St Theatre Co, Flamingo & Decatur is at its best when exploring the very fine line between working or being worked by the system (and as anyone who has ever spent time in Vegas knows, sometimes the best we can really hope for is to break even). These moments, unfortunately, are too few and far between with much of the play’s lengthy two hour plus running time appearing unfocused. There is also a serious problems with the central character as Jackson lacks both the necessary likability to be sympathetic or the snake like charm to be interesting.
Two bright spots in the production are the wonderful set design by Joe Schermoly (which among other things involves an actual hot tub) and the stage presence of Stephanie Bignault. Making her Chicago debut, Bignault is absolutely masterful as Nicole, a vampire like poker player who prowls the late night scene in search of an edge. Her vulnerability and swagger is what stands out in this very uneven play.
Bottom Line: Flamingo & Decatur is somewhat recommended. The play does have its moments but ultimately this is a bet probably not worth taking. The play runs through February 18 and is performed at Theater Wit (1229 West Belmont) with shows on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (8 PM) as well as Sunday (2 and 7 PM). Tickets are $33 and can be purchased by calling (773) 975-8150 or by going to theaterwit.org. Noel Schecter