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Monday, September 21, 2009

Review- the good thief (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by David Stallings.

It is always a pleasure to see great scripts brought to life on the stage, especially when it is something so simple and yet so theatrical as a one-man show.  Of course the script, Conner McPherson’s, the good thief, now playing at The Player’s Loft as part of the First Irish Festival’s current line-up, is not new to NYC—but is a refreshing escape from the “pho-edgy” fare presented by other festivals recently in session.  This script is so strong in fact, it hides most of the flaws in Ormond Road Productions current manifestation.

The play is simple, a man in a chair talking to the audience.  The man (Sean Gormley) is a nameless pay for hire thug who “ruffs people up” for a living.  He tells the story of how he set off one day on a routine job that would end with several dead bodies—landing him in prison.  The Irish humor throughout this dark tale keeps the audience laughing in between hideous descriptions of gunshot wounds and murders.  What McPherson does so masterfully is give this thug a heart.  He is not a sociopath—but a product of a poverty-ridden society both rough and uncaring.  After almost each violent segment of the narrative, he goes back to talking about his girl, Greta, with poetic sensitivity.  Greta, the love of his life, is always on this man’s mind—even though she is currently dating his boss and apparently not one for commitment.  Good storytelling with bubbling brutality and soul are the trademarks of McPherson’s plays.  That is why it is so sad that director John Keating does not seem to trust the text or his actor.  Keating fills the narrative with distracting sound cues, underscoring the play with music both jarring and sentimental—ultimately distracting the audience from the powerful words.  These tricks, common in film, do nothing for this story.

Sean Gormley is obviously a talented actor suited to this role.  His dark humor and perfect timing suit McPherson’s writing to a tea.  Unfortunately, there is not much beneath the humor in this manifestation although he comes close to it multiple times.  McPherson artfully has biting moments of pain for his character that are told through the guise of humor.  Gormley—though fierce and dark—does not bring the necessary guilt and pathos to the role—ultimately only trusting in the comedy to save him.  Gormely of course is not aided by the fact that every time his character reaches one of these painful realizations, sappy music begins to play. 

Flaws aside, it is still refreshing to see a text of this caliber on the stage.  Audiences should definitely take the hour to go hear such a marvelous play aloud.

Ormond Road Productions and 1st Irish Festival
the good thief
September 10th-October 4th, 2009
The Players Loft

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

The Players Loft | 115 MacDougal Street, 3rd Floor | Manhattan.

1 comment:

Dianna said...

I agree with you 100%. Those were some of the things I was mulling over afterwards...and found that many things I thought were troublesome were not; and that it was ultimately the emotional connection (or lack thereof) between the text and the actor (combined with the jarring music) that threw me...and this really is, in my opinion a directorial choice.

Brilliant review - and kudos for highlighting the wonderful aspects of the show, which was a wonderful hour of a great tale. Like sitting next to someone in a pub and hearing their tale - only you just wish they would express what THEY were feeling.