For the second offering of the Long Wharf Theater season, acting artistic director Greg Leaming has brought from New York last year's Keen Co. production of this solo play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson ("The Weir").

For the second offering of the Long Wharf Theater season, acting artistic director Greg Leaming has brought from New York last year’s Keen Co. production of this solo play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson (“The Weir”).

“The Good Thief” is a deft example of old-style Irish storytelling with new-style descriptions of casual cruelty and sexual explicitness. The lone performer, Dan Cordle (in Gotham it was Brian D’Arcy James), plays a small-time thug relating a homicidal incident that occurred more than 10 years earlier.

Cordle is technically skillful, as is the direction by Carl Forsman, while the physical production is brutally stylish. But, primed by program notes referring to the “good thief” at Christ’s crucifixion and discussions of redemption, we expect something more than what meets the ear.

It may be the fault of the writing or that Cordle’s assured, believably Irish-sounding performance doesn’t dig deeply enough. Whatever the reason, “Good Thief” comes across as a minor offering.

Nathan Heverin’s set (seen in New York and Waterford, Ireland) and Josh Bradford’s lighting are the most potent elements of this production. Heverin provides a piece of stage sculpture made up of what looks like overlapping slabs of rusting steel backed by a wall of worn corrugated iron; at one brief point, light shines through the many holes in the wall to suggest stars; at another, water trickles down the corrugations like tears.

Bradford’s stark lighting follows the tale through dawn, daylight, dusk and night from Dublin to Sligo, evoking natural and electric light and flashing on and off as the narrator recalls being beaten up and lapsing in and out of consciousness.

But when set and lighting outshine play and cast, something’s awry, as is the case with “The Good Thief.”

The Good Thief

Long Wharf Theater Stage II, New Haven, Conn.; 199 seats; $45 top

Production

A Long Wharf Theater presentation of a play in one act by Conor McPherson. Directed by Carl Forsman.

Creative

Set, Nathan Heverin; costumes, Theresa Squire; lighting, Josh Bradford; sound, Stefan Jacobs; production stage manager, Andrew John Tucker; vocal consultant, Sarah Felder. Long Wharf Theater acting artistic director, Greg Leaming. Opened, reviewed Oct. 24, 2001. Running time: 1 HOUR, 5 MIN.

Cast

With: Dan Cordle
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