Theater archives

Megan Riordan’s Luck Is a Good Bet


“Luck doesn’t exist,” announces Megan Riordan—a confusing statement, as Luck is the title of Riordan’s one-woman show. Nevertheless, she insists the concept is illusory. If you play most casino games, you will lose. If you play blackjack according to the rules of basic strategy, you will break even. Of course, should you collaborate with your father, your brother, and “Uncle Jimmy” in an elaborate system of card spotting, playacting, and hand gestures known as “advantage play,” you will win. This practice has underwritten Riordan’s acting career and made her persona non grata at Mandalay Bay. And it has also supplied her with ample dramatic material.

Riordan begins the piece garbed in a cocktail dress, bestowing cheese balls upon the crowd. She also distributes a deck of cards, a pair of dice, and a mini–roulette wheel. Chance outcomes—a card drawn, a number rolled—determine the course of her show: An even number might lead her to discourse on nicknames; an odd one will send her riffing on gaming vocabulary. She moves energetically, even a little frantically, from one game to the next, from one subject to another. Occasionally, she decelerates and describes her Vegas childhood and her father, a professional gambler barred from every casino in Australia. These tales prove so unexpectedly resonant that perhaps Riordan should leave aside some of the gimmickry (the dance numbers, anyway) and simply talk more.

Few gambling truisms ring truer than “The house always wins.” And at the close of Luck, which followed a lusty sing-along of “Here’s to the Losers,” the house at 59E59 burst into smiles, cheers, and applause. They win again.