Tuesday, October 19, 2004

'Good Thief' will nab your attention

Theater review

By Jackie Demaline
Enquirer staff writer

Irish playwright Conor McPherson is one heck of a storyteller and Nick Rose is one heck of an actor. Put them together and you have a piece of theater sure as heck worth seeing. Put Know Theatre Tribe's The Good Thief on your list of things to do.

Rose plays the title role of a morally lazy, hard-drinking, pill-popping, Dublin thug with a hair-trigger temper and a touch of the poet. He does jobs for bad guy Joe Murray, maybe shooting a man in the leg, maybe beating the stuffing out of someone to put a scare in them, and doesn't lose any sleep over it.

Then one night everything that can go wrong does.

For Know Tribe, everything goes right, starting with the inspiration to set The Good Thief in a bar. McPherson wrote this 80-minute solo show in a conversational style.

In the sun porch at Mount Adams Bar & Grill, Rose keeps a beer in one hand (occasionally switching to chug from a whiskey bottle) and a cigarette in the other while he moves among the tightly packed audience and chats us up.

It's a relaxed atmosphere to listen to this story, which is filled with violence, carnage and enough graphic language to earn it a "mature audiences" tag.

McPherson has a great talent for ratcheting up suspense, sliding in under our guard, and making us care about what happens to people we never meet, but whose stories we hear.

The playwright fills his story with exact detail so that we feel as if we know them from their lightly but deftly drawn character sketches; Rose, a founding member of Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, is always a compelling performer when he's focused.

He has a great time finding the complexities and ironies and the humanity of this strange little tale.

A pub is exactly where you can imagine it being told. Watch it with your brew of choice close at hand and let the drama catch you up.

You can't get closer to theatrical action than the Bar & Grill's back room. A lot of the audience is within inches of Rose, who enters the room dressed and groomed like a tough - a good-looking one, but a tough, nonetheless.

Director Jason Bruffy, who scored for Know earlier this year with Another American, shows a sure hand with The Good Thief.

He knows when to keep Rose anchored to his barstool and when to send him moving between tables

Rose and Bruffy create a persuasive make-believe: you might have happened into a crowded bar and a guy with a story he has to tell might just have chosen you to tell it to.

The Good Thief continues 9 p.m. today and next Sunday through Tuesday. I hope it runs a good while longer than that.

The Good Thief, Know Theatre Tribe, Mount Adams Bar & Grill, 938 Hatch St. Tickets $10. (513) 300-5669.

E-mail jdemaline@enquirer.com

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