Dealer's Choice is set after-hours in a restaurant where six men meet each week to play cards. Tonight the stakes are higher than usual – but winning has its price. In a night of psychological violence and bluff, the players stay up late and bust each other out.
The play premiered at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre in 1995, directed by Marber, and later transferred to the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre and won the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy. Best known at that point as a stand-up comedian and TV sketch writer, Marber partly based his playwriting debut on his own experiences with gambling addiction. Two years later, he confirmed his reputation with Closer. The plays Howard Katz, After Miss Julie and Don Juan in Soho also followed, as did the screenplay of Notes on a Scandal, for which Marber was Oscar-nominated.
West’s production of Dealer's Choice is designed by Tom Piper, with lighting by Neil Austin and sound by Gareth Owen. Malcolm Sinclair and Whatsonstage.com Award winner Samuel Barnett (The History Boys) play father and son. Also in the cast are Roger Lloyd Pack (pictured), Stephen Wight, Ross Boatman and Jay Simpson.
First night critics dealt an even hand with a round of four-star reviews, welcoming back Marber’s play which, they noted, has been given extra relevance today thanks to the popularity of online poker. According to some, West’s “gripping” and “explosively acted” production even improves on Marber’s original, giving the play a “new lease of life”. There were individual plaudits for everyone in the six-strong, all-male cast, with special appreciation given to Stephen Wight’s “blissfully funny” performance as the chirpily delusional waiter Mugsy.
- by Terri Paddock