The Good Thief
nytheatre.com review by Anthony C.E. Nelson
May 3, 2007
A one-man show is all about the actor, and fortunately Kit Wannen is up to the task in Prospect St.'s production of Conor McPherson's The Good Thief.
The unnamed thief has quite a yarn to spin, full of violence and betrayal and half-expressed feelings. He's a former army vet who works as a small-time enforcer for a local hood named Murray, scaring people who owe money, killing someone if they need to be killed. He's obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Greta, a local tramp who can't stop cheating on him. She's dating Murray now, and he takes small moments of pleasure in knowing what he's now going through.
He encounters Murray while chatting with a couple at the local pub, and Murray gives him a commission. He's tasked with frightening a wealthy local man named Mitchell, and Murray gives him a small advance. Our protagonist wakes up the next day hungover and considers not doing the job, but since he's already been paid he goes through an epic (and hilarious) series of hangover remedies and soldiers on. Upon arriving at the house, he is almost immediately thrust into a power struggle that will leave a number of people dead, and force our storyteller to flee for his life with Mitchell's wife and child in tow. McPherson's script follows the thief's constricted longing for some kind of connection, but mostly concerns itself with telling a ripping good yarn.
It took me awhile to warm up to Wannen's disciplined, low-key performance. For the first half of the play, the taciturn approach that he and director Tom Wojtunik have decided on for the character doesn't quite mesh with the jokey fellow who tells us about the people he falls into conversations with in bars. But once concerns about why this character would want to tell us his story fade away, Wannen transforms so completely that I became less concerned whether it was actually the exactly right character for the play and just let myself get carried away by the strength of his performance.
I also have to add that I have literally never seen an actor deal with cell phone interruptions as well as Wannen did, including one that occurred directly in the middle of his climactic speech. He remained completely in character, uttered a fierce expletive, and occupied himself with a task until the ringing was done, and then came right back to deliver a powerful coda to the play.
Prospect St. hasn't listed a set-designer in their program, but the backdrop they've constructed is impressive and fits the mood of the play very well.
The production features live music before and during by Ben Carroll and Corey Mustin, which I have to admit I had some problems with. The music itself was excellent, and the selections were well-chosen, but to have an amplified guitar and singer sitting in the corner and occasionally bursting into action during a one-man show was very distracting. As well, too much time is given at the beginning of the show for some songs while Wannen simply stands there, especially considering the two had been playing music since the house opened.
This was a small issue, though, and I left the theatre thoroughly satisfied. The Good Thief is a fabulous story told well, and I recommend checking out this strong production before it closes all too soon.