Fringe Festival Review: The Good Thief

Carrying a one-person show isn't easy.

It requires the lone actor to work, and to work hard, to capture and sustain the interest of the audience. Not a beat can be missed because there is no one else to distract the attention away, no one else to deflect to, no one else to hide behind. The success of the one-person show rests, by and large, on the charisma of that one person; or, rather, on that of his or her character.

This is where David Mackette falters. The leading man of The Good Thief underestimated the necessity of charisma when developing his character, a small-time Irish henchman. As such, the play, essentially an hour-long monologue delivered in deliberately understated fashion, ultimately fails to engage.

Whiskey and beer are simultaneously consumed and cigarettes are smoked, one after the other, as the thug recounts the story of a job gone wrong. As he weaves the complex, involved plot, his tone and pace barely fluctuate, contributing to this writer's waning attention and, before long, growing ennui. The script alone is not enough to maintain interest for the play's full duration--nor should it be charged to do so--and Mackett's static delivery does little to help.

Granted, I see his logic: the shell-shocked character is too worn down to muster more energy in the telling of his tale; and I agree, a person that has gone through what the character has may very well relate a story in a similar manner. But, at the end of the day, theatergoers are there to listen to a story told by a stranger. This requires the storyteller to work for their attention; it requires a performance. Mackett's true-to-life approach to acting, in this case, delivered fatal blows to dramatic interest and made it near impossible to connect with his character. His contained tension and quiet brooding were intriguing at the outset but, without any variation in neither tempo nor expression for over an hour, it became tedious.

The Rowers Pub is the perfect setting for this production. Enjoy a pint along with the actor onstage, and ponder the story the person sitting next to you. The setting works in the play's favour, serving to humanize the criminal and to remind us that everyone, no matter who or where they are, has a past.

Celebrated playwright Conor McPherson's darkly comic script pays homage to film noir, with hit men, femme fatales and betrayal all in leading roles. Unfortunately, this staging--try as it might--falls short of achieving the heightened sense of suspense and fatalistic mood characteristic of classic noir. Director Autumn Smith relies too heavily on McPherson's story to carry the production, and while the story is entertaining, it is not enough to maintain interest in the absence of engaging delivery.

Rating: **

Every night through July 16 at 8:30pm (no performance on July 9)

Venue 17 - Rowers Pub and Grill (150 Harbord)

The Toronto Fringe Festival features local, national and international companies at 28 venues. Tickets are $10 or less ($2 surcharge on advance tickets) and discount passes are available. Advance tickets sold up to three hours prior to showtime by phone, online or in person at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick, at Bloor). At least half of all tickets for each performance go on sale one hour before showtime at the venue. Festival runs until July 16. Fringe Hotline: 416-966-1062.

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