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By Jon SteinhagenacesAces by Jon Stainhagen

Directed by Ronan Marra

At Signal Ensemble Theatre

Likable casino employees struggle to make a comfortable life

When one of four  blackjack dealers in a seedy Las Vegas casino dies, the remaining losers fear that their “Aces” nickle-and-dime scam will end since they need four dealers to make it work. Lloyd (Vincent Lonergan) is the supervisor and senior member of the scam while Jack (Jon Steinhagen) is the wound-too-tight pit boss. The dealers are Duke (Joseph Stearns), a womanizer deeply in debt to the mob; Garrett (Aaron Snook) a Vietnam vet turned hippie with little to say and Pete (Philip Winston). Linda (Elizabeth Bagby) is the cocktail waitress and look-out for the scampers.   This motley crew is desperately in need of money and the ending of their supplemental income (from their Aces scam) shakes them up to their core.

Aces by Jon Stainhagen

When the girl-next store pretty blond, Samantha (Simone Roos) arrives from Reno to become the fourth dealer, she has a soothing effect on all the characters. After a meeting, the ‘Aces’ agree to each get to know the new dealer with an eye on trying to determine of she’ll go along and join their scam. The result of each person’s meeting with Samantha, herself a most amiable persona, garners  several comic scenes.

Jon Steinhagen’s new play is an every-man’s comedy about the blue collar casino workers in reverse of those glamorous films about Vegas. These empathetic losers fight among themselves but their common bond is their need for both money and a common purpose.  Each has their own foible – Lloyd is an aging boss;  Jack is an alcoholic ex-gambler who resents that his brother Pete has moved out. Linda’s ex, Duke, is a womanizer desperate to hide from mob’s debt collector. Pete wants to find a soul mate.

Aces by Jon Stainhagen

In a tender and comic work, Aces unfolds as a fable about how a charismatic newcomer,  Samantha, can enlighten, inspire, motivate and comfort her fellow casino workers. We also see how Linda helps her ex, Duke, after he gets hurt by the mob.  Jack also come through to help Duke get out of debt. We enjoy, we laugh, and we relate to this group of eccentric lost souls. Steinhagen has a most effect retro look  at the 1970’s mentality. The strength of this work lies in the fully developed unique characters, male and female, young middle aged, and senior that Steinhagen has created. His  clever scomedy has enough development for each character to influence and contribute to the story. Their adventures could emerge into another play, a TV mini-series or film.

The cast consists of the major players from Signal Ensemble Theatre each doing yeomen work . I particularly like Jon Stainhagen, Simone Roos and Aaron Snook’s performances. Aces does indeed come up Aces.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed:  May 20, 2011

For more info checkout the Aces page on

At Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-347-1350, tickets $20, $15 for industry, students/senors, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through June 11, 2011

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