Jaime Johnson as Josh and Larry Adams as Matt in “The Dealer Smiles”

Recently, a friend of mine sent me a DVD to view of a play he had written. You might know how that can be – “Oh, yeah, great! You say you wrote it yourself? Wow! I can’t wait to watch it…” And so it sat for about a week or so on the table next to my TV  viewing chair. I forgot about it, to tell you the truth, but on one of those hot days we have been having lately, I popped it into the DVD player and watched it.

It was about an hour long, and it was really quite good – the kind of good that after you watch it, you want other people to see it. So I recruited my wife to see it and watched it a second time with her. She enjoyed it a lot too and it opened a discussion. We talked about some of the many points the play makes and we talked about how we thought it would be good for a lot of other people we know to see it.

The play is called “The Dealer Smiles – A Comedy of Biblical Proportions” – the dealer being a reference to the Almighty and how His control of the world might be likened to a card dealer, playing in the dark, with blank cards, and no rules and Him smiling benignly. It’s a very thought-provoking play with universal themes.

In the story, Matt, a recently divorced guy, is in a bookstore, in the self-help section – trying to find a way back to some happiness in life. It is not really working out too well, though. He feels too guilty about his divorce and his kids. Along comes Josh – a rather strange fellow in a Spiderman t-shirt, who bums some change for a cup of hot chocolate and by way of conversation tells a brief history of how hot chocolate, and indeed chocolate in general came into being, with great relish and excitement. He’s that kind of guy. But he is lots more – a whole lot more.

What follows, what develops in the arc of the play, is an entertaining, yet deep conversation about life, God, faith, enduring one’s problems and making more of what we are given in this world. There are so many enriching “ah-ha” moments, mixed in with a lot of clever, funny and even ridiculous humor. The subject matter deals with questions we have all asked ourselves. Where is God? Is there a God? – How does He allow such evil to be in our midst?

But let me be clear – this is not a religious play – it is more a philosophical discourse. While it does not give any definitive answers – it allows our own interpretations. We do not get conclusions – and yet, we somehow are left with a new understanding – of ourselves among other things. It is a powerful, intelligent, non-judgmental examination of the questions of the ages.

Know this too – I am not a religious guy. But this play made me think – and like the troubled character, Matt, I was left with a new awareness of the possibilities.

I really like this play. It is well organized and well written – full of ideas and thoughtful probes of our personal understanding of things. The DVD is of a performance of the play at a Zionsville IN church with my friend Larry Adams as Matt, and his friend, Jaime Johnson as Josh and they are both terrific in it. They make a great team – with near perfect comic timing, and with apt emotional and dramatic portrayals in all the right places. I became friends with Larry when I directed him in “Art” in 2008.

I like this play so much that I told Larry I would write a review and put a few cuts from it up on YouTube for people to see. The purpose being that I hope people will bring it to the attention of their pastor or their youth group leader or a senior citizens group or a mid-life crisis meeting group or ANY group of youths or adults who would like to be enriched and be encouraged to think about life and faith and making more of what we are given in this world.

You can view the cuts at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOFnw0d5zFY and  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyMQrXzfu-g and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV9Fa8RNVJA .

Or you can watch a full performance of the play when it was presented as part of a worship service for “The Garden”, a group that meets on Sundays at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv5JBXfIRIE

If you have questions about the play or inquiries about presenting it to your group, contact Larry at ladamsmd@yahoo.com .

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