Very little can go wrong when a highly talented, engaging actor performs an evening of deftly written, time-tested short stories. And despite Chris O'Neill's self-effacing manner and somewhat quirky appearance--he describes himself as a cross between Harpo Marx and Marty Feldman--the veteran of Ireland's famed Abbey Theatre is spellbinding, showcasing his twin talents as stage actor and master storyteller. Though the show's title suggests an emphasis on Brendan Behan, the evening really belongs to Frank O'Connor, whose stories "First Confession," "The Drunkard," and "Guests of the Nation" chronicle a boy's coming-of-age in Ireland, from scared young lad of 7 to disillusioned 19-year-old member of the IRA. Behan's "The Confirmation Suit," a childhood remembrance that accents the boisterous writer's sweet-natured side, is a slight digression from the O'Connor stories but so compellingly performed it makes little difference. There are really only two troubling aspects to Frankly Brendan. One is O'Neill's overconcern for his American audience members, whom he directs to listen carefully to the dialects. The other is the audience: Where is it? When I attended, there were only eight of us. If there's any justice, this will change. TurnAround Theatre, 3209 N. Halsted, 773-296-1100. Through December 12: Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 4:30 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $18.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/ Irene Haupt.