Stroke of Luck, theatre review: 'A synthetic mix of jokiness and sentimentality'

Park Theatre, London

This debut play by veteran Broadway press agent Larry Belling homes in on the estranged children of recently widowed stroke-victim Lester Riley who, at the memorial service for his wife, shocks them by announcing his intention to marry his attractive Japanese nurse, thirty-seven years his junior.

When they discover that he has salted away millions as the result of being the favourite TV repair man of Long Island's mafia, these variously dysfunctional middle-aged siblings try everything – from the threat of legal action to hiring a hit-man – to get him to change his mind. Apparently to no avail.

The excellent Tim Piggott-Smith radiates jaunty mischief as the scheming Lester who declares that only the left side of his penis is paralysed.

But the play, directed by Kate Golledge, is heavily reliant on a surprise twist and in its synthetic mix of jokiness and sentimentality evades all the awkward questions it raises, such as how Lester managed to be such a devoted husband and a disastrous father.

The applause-seeking sequence in which the Nurse (Julia Sandiford) tries for the world speed record at changing a bed with the patient still in it is typical of a play that never dares to discomfit the audience to degree that the material demands.

To March 2, 020 7870 6876