To most, Guys and Dolls is a light-hearted, toe-tapping musical about streetwise gamblers who find redemption through the power of love.
But consider how it looks from a grifter’s perspective.
These guys and dolls cover it with a lot of terrific jokes and songs, but it’s obvious their relationships are just as transactional in nature as everybody else’s. Because we’re all motivated by self-interest, right?
Just look at the missionary, Sarah Brown. She can’t convince sinners to attend her prayer meetings, because she hasn’t offered them any tangible assets in return. Yes, she makes a lot of noise about the soul, and eternal salvation, but what kind of investment doesn’t pay off til after you’re dead? Tough sell.
It doesn’t matter, she’s so desperate for customers that she agrees to go all the way from New York to Cuba with Sky Masterson, a professional gambler, who she just met by the way, because he says he can put butts in seats. This missionary enterprise hasn’t exactly shown measurable results, and her boss is going lay everybody off and shut the place down if the next prayer meeting tanks. Might be a good idea to sell the place anyway. Real estate on Broadway, there’s a lot of ways to leverage that into cash.
Sky Masterson only even takes her to Havana to win a thousand dollar bet. Turns out to be a strong move, it goes pretty well for him. She loosens up and everybody has a fun time. It’s a good deal for all of them, even Nathan Detroit, who loses that bet. He’s going to owe Sky Masterson a thousand bucks, but he's got Sarah Brown out of the way so he ccan have his craps game in the mission and take a chunk off this whale in town from Chicago. Very shrewd guy, Nathan Detroit.
But then Sky Masterson comes back and he doesn’t even collect. He even pays Nathan Detroit the thousand bucks, like he lost the bet! That’s a $2k swing, it makes no sense. And it only gets more crazy after that.
Sky Masterson beats 12 guys throwing dice, which has gotta be rigged. And instead of taking their money, he makes them go to the prayer meeting to save his girl’s job. Okay, but then some of the gamblers buy into her soul-saving stuff? That doesn’t make sense, these are made guys, some of them.
Then the girl agrees to marry him, even though she knows he got her in a con. She even sings a song about what a bad idea it is, and how marriage is risk and you can’t guarantee long term appreciation. But somehow it works out because of love.
Yeah, right. And divorce attorneys.
Guys and Dolls plays at Coronado Playhouse until February 24.