Review: Friends Get More Than They Gambled on in Audio Drama "Penny Slots"

Penny Slots

Written and directed by Kim Hlavac

Presented by the Open-Door Playhouse

Premieres May 26, 2021, after which it is available permanently on

Image from
In the first verse of "Fly Me to the Moon," part of which plays to open Kim Hlavac's new short audio play Penny Slots, the speaker expresses a desire to experience new places, and for New Yorkers like Penny Slots' Helen (Goreti da Silva), moving to Florida might indeed seem like relocating to Jupiter or Mars. Helen seems to be the most recent transplant among the trio of friends and former NYC residents. Early in the play, Helen's friends Kay (Carol Goldman) and Marie (Marla Cotovsky) chat about a man they know who gave up a rent-controlled apartment to decamp to L.A., a juxtaposition to their own move that also highlights that while you can take the New Yorker out of the City, you can't take the obsession with rent prices out of the New Yorker. A planned outing to play the penny slots (and have a few of the accompanying drinks) will be a new activity for Helen, but the arrival of a certain man on the scene (Amir Abdullah) will make it a new kind of experience for everyone. Surely the friends' trip to the beach the next day will be less eventful.

Penny Slots is part of The Open-Door Playhouse, which has so far presented upwards of twenty-five plays by new and emerging writers. The podcast may hearken back to the live radio plays of the mid-twentieth century, but the way in which Penny Slots puts women's agency, capability, and power front and center, and further depicts these qualities as receiving recognition, is no throwback. That these are assertive, action-oriented women who occupy, according to Kay, the same age bracket as Vanna White, is refreshing as well.

Despite a couple of dramatic events and a subtle linkage of the theme of chance and luck from the slots to the friends' experiences, the tone here is a light one. The characters' good-humored banter, in NYC accents of varying thickness, often creates the vibe of a hangout show, with Goldman as Kay delivering some of the funniest lines. Penny Slots, which runs approximately 20 minutes with the intro and outro, is available for free on the Open-Door Playhouse website, though donations to support the project are welcome—think of it like putting money in the slots but with a guaranteed return.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards


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