You Be the Critic review: 'Sting' at VPA

Art Snob Blog
Joyce Martin

Director Garry Forrester leads his 29 person cast in a superb production of The Sting.  The play is an account of times long-gone, which enables the play to run smoothly as a framed narrative that would be next to impossible to completely act out on the VPA stage.  The actual content of the play is set in Illinois during the Great Depression, where Johnny Hooker (played by DJ Rotach) is forced to leave because of misadventures.  He then moves to Chicago where he meets up with Henry Gondorff (played by Larry Bottjen), and they work together to plan “the big con” against Doyle Lonnegan (played by Dave Nufer).

The play proceeds nearly seamlessly, with only the occasional, hardly noticeable misstep.  The scene transitions are excellent, the stage and balconies are put to good use.  The longest transition of the play seems to take only a few seconds.  Before, during, and after the show, the mood and suspense is created and upheld by David Baker as he plays lively, old-time music on the piano, such as Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” which is the theme song for The Sting.  The sets and costumes are all put-together well, and are supported by almost universally outstanding acting.

Johnny Hooker is the driving force behind the plot; in which he seeks to avenge his friend Luther by playing “the con” on Doyle Lonnegan.  As the plot unfolds, the young and flamboyant Hooker constantly gets into mishaps, but he seems to be blessed by fortune as “the con” starts to materialize.  Rotach plays Hooker without a single noticeable misstep and draws a lot of laughs with his antics.

Gondorff teams up with Hooker in planning and carrying out “the con.”  He is the voice of reason in the pair and has the experience and knowledge to successfully plan and carry out “the con” on Lonnegan.  He carefully plans his every move and his ties to the underground world enable him to gather the resources and men necessary to play “the con.”  Bottjen plays his part well, coming across as a cautious, calculating, experienced con man that will never take part in rash actions and always has a contingency plan.  His acting is also superb.

Dave Nufer steals the show with his excellent performance as Doyle Lonnegan.  Nufer portrays Lonnegan perfectly as a cruel villain, who kills, cheats, and steals to break anyone who opposes him in his eternal quest for power and wealth.  As Nufer plays in his seventh year and 18th play, he says he enjoys taking a break from being a school principal and “getting to play the nice bad guy.”

Another actor in the play is Talis Colberg.  Although he plays a minor role, it is entertaining to see the Director of the Mat-Su College and former Attorney General of Alaska playing a small-time henchman.

“The Sting” runs through April 21, playing at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Fred and Sara Machentanz Theatre, 251 W. Swanson Ave., in Wasilla. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling 373-0195. They cost $16 for students and seniors and $18 for adults.


Stephen Warta is majoring in Geological Sciences with minors in English and Political Science.  Coming from a homeschooled education he is in his second year as a Junior in college at Mat Su College.


Stephen Warta