Big Money, Sandbox Theatre's new play, is based on the life of Michael Larson, his big win on the game show Press Your Luck, ($110,237 which would be equivalent to over $250,000 in 2016) and the events that preceded and followed his "big money." I first heard the story of Michael Larson on an episode of This American Life from 2010. I thought the story was fascinating and when I heard it was the subject of Sandbox's new work I was excited and curious. I was curious as to how they were going to stage it, and how the story would flow, and I was very pleased to find it did all these things very well.
Michael Larson was a man who "didn't do jobs." His get rich quick schemes started in middle school with selling candy and continued into adulthood with signing up for bank accounts just for the sign up bonus. It continued past the game show with a pyramid scheme. But of course at the center of it all was Press Your Luck. One of his more honest scams, he didn't break any rules, he just learned the patterns.
Sandbox Theatre's staging and design centered around his time on Press Your Luck. The set designed by Leazah Behrens and Heidi Eckwall set the play during the live taping of Michael's episode of the show, with a wall of flashing tiles, seats for the contestants and a light up applause sign.
Although the set places us in a game show studio the story also flows in a way that allows for flashbacks and narration that aid in the audience's understanding of Michael. The second act takes place mainly during the aftermath of the game show. As you can probably guess just because Michael wins over 100,000 dollars, his life doesn't get better.
The ups and downs of Michael's life and how it affects those around him are played very honestly by the entire cast. Peter Heeringa plays Michael and the rest of the cast comprised of Emma Larson, Cameron Meilicke, Derek Meyer, Cortez Owens, Sarah Parker and Eric Weiman play multiple parts, from Michaels family member's to game show contestants and producers.
The entire group works well together, directed by Theo Langason, they change characters and jump from one year to another in a way that is not disruptive to the story. Repeated physical movements also aid in the narration of the play, and tie ideas present in different scenes together in a subtle but affective way.
Sandbox Theatre is a company that creates new work. Theater is a living art, and although it can be fun to see Shakespeare, I think it is much more exciting to see brand new work. Big Money presented by Sandbox is a great example of what can be accomplished when you put a lot of creative minds together to build something new.
It can be seen at Park Square Theater's Boss Thrust stage until January 28th.
Thank you to Sandbox Theater for inviting me to this show.