reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Today, I am very excited to write about a new film adaptation of a popular play by a local actor/playwright.

It was the summer of 2012 when a good friend of mine, Larry Adams, sent me a DVD of a performance of a play he had written – The Dealer Smiles. When I got around to watching it, it immediately had a surprising impact on me. Later the same day, I asked Mrs K to watch it with me, and she too was duly impressed. The story is about one Matt Pierson, a recently divorced man who is having trouble facing a spiral of regret and bitterness until he meets Josh, a very special man with some powerful insights. It spoke to us in a rather unique and clear way.

What my friend had written, and performed, was an uncommon excursion into some high-level questions which have been posed forever. I wrote about it at the time thusly: “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.”

The play succeeded on many levels – as an entertainment, as a thought-provoking experience – and it spoke to people in a way that was unusually direct and understandable. Larry and his fellow cast member Jaime Johnson began a journey with the play that went through a reworking for Westfield Playhouse, and onto an IndyFringe stage in August of 2013. Again, their efforts drew positive attention. One further readaptation took place at the Westfield venue in 2016.

Laurence Adams as Matt Pierce (right) and Jaime Johnson as Josh – from The Dealer Smiles

Now, Larry has gone to another level with his creation and, with the guidance of film-maker Nathan Crowder (of SILO Cinemaworks), he has produced a movie version of the story. When asked about taking this next step, Larry told me this:

“The impact I’m hoping for is the same as for the play: I’m hoping to stimulate conversation and, I suppose, contemplation of ideas of faith. A great many people have drifted away from faith (whatever the religion) because the very questions this show asks are not only never answered in their churches, synagogues or mosques, they’re not even allowed to be asked. Many people, faced with this dilemma, have simply thrown it all out and walked away, and I believe this leaves a huge hole in the lives of many people, a whole facet of existence left unexplored. I wanted people to know that these questions are legitimate, it’s ok to ask them, and that the journey toward answering them can be a fulfilling and life-altering one.”

After viewing the film, I am very impressed with the Crowder/Adams results. They have melded all the original enriching, entertaining, thought-provoking facets of the play, into a solidly paced, visually attractive piece. The story has been expanded in the film with added scenes – of Matt’s youth, of his dismay during his father’s passing, even scenes of the Dealer himself. Plus the cutting action of video-storytelling adds appeal to the story arc.

Larry Adams and his acting partner, Jaime Johnson are impressive in their roles. Transferring the elements of a play – timing, characterization, emotion – from stage-acting to an on-the-screen performance is tricky stuff, but the duo keeps all the components in fine working order and are top-notch in their portrayals.

Bottomline: Taken all together, this video production richly hits the mark with an inspirational, humorous, sharply dialogued tale we ALL can relate to and learn from.

You can gather more info about the DVD and about the production at The Dealer Smiles (thedealersmilesmovie.com) . The disk is available for purchase for $10 plus mailing.