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A CurtainUp Review
The Good Thief
By Les Gutman
We have encountered McPherson enough times in the past few years that we are familiar with his storytelling skills. This monologue, receiving its American premiere, actually antedates The Weir, St. Nicholas and This Lime Tree Bower (reviews of all of which are linked below -- along with a review of Port Authority posted just last week). Like all of them, it relies on the story, well-told, rather than dialogue or action, to keep our attention. As with the others, we still never quite know what to believe. It is a horrific story, really, but is told with enough infectious Irish humor, not to mention flimflam and blarney, that we barely notice.
McPherson's thief -- he is nameless -- is "a paid thug". Not a killer, he assures us. "I scared people...Set fire to places....Shot people. As warnings." He's also not much better to his slutty (ex-)girlfriend, Greta. She "annoyed" him, but he can't seem to get her out of his mind. The story at hand is about a "job" he did for Joe Murray, the owner of a bar he frequents, who is also one of his best customers. The tables get turned on him, the man he's to scare gets killed -- not by him, we are assured -- and he goes on the lam with the dead man's not-very-grieving widow and young daughter. He ends up getting framed, but not for murder, and sent to jail. Quite a few people end up dead.
James makes a most appealing low-life, his good looks not at all eclipsed by the five o'clock shadow he sports. He's a tough guy you can't help but love and, ultimately and oddly enough, care about. James gets him just right, brogue and all. None of the character's personality is permitted to overwhelm us: he can be alternatingly slick, violent and romantic, always with his sense of irony intact. Those who know James mostly as Barrett, the memorable tenor in Titanic, or for his roles in such shows as MTC's The Wild Party or Lincoln Center's Carousel, will be happy to learn there's a fine actor behind the voice.
Carl Forsman has staged the play simply, allowing James to move about some on the almost non-existent set (a single chair, against a shingled gray background), and giving lighting designer Josh Bradford fairly broad license to suggest context and comment on mood (granting the same to sound designer Stefan Jacobs, who uses it sparingly but effectively). Earlier productions of The Good Thief, directed by McPherson, have made extensive use of projections, but here restraint is the keystone that lets McPherson have its say.
Reviews of The Weir in NYC, London and Toronto
Review of St. Nicholas
Review of This Lime Tree Bower
Review of Port Authority (London)
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by
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