PADDYWACK, Profiles Theatre. Despite some clunky exposition and a thematically appropriate but implausible conclusion, Profiles' Chicago premiere of Daniel Magee's one-act about bigots in a London boardinghouse rooting out a suspected IRA terrorist provides a well-paced, compelling 90 minutes of theater, thanks largely to two nuanced portrayals of Irishmen on opposite sides of the political fence. As the working-class Michael, who seeks to ingratiate himself with his English roommates, Chris Farrell is a deft model of understatement. And playing the newcomer Damien, who may or may not have IRA ties, Darrell W. Cox is cunningly subtle, both sympathetic and sinister. In Lisa Devine's competent if somewhat rigid staging, they manage to maintain credibility and suspense, though Joe Jahraus is over-the-top as a knife-wielding Londoner, and Ryan Pfeiffer and Kerry Cox have rather simplistic roles as a wealthy liberal couple exhilarated by the thought of slumming with a terrorist.
Nothing in Magee's script is particularly new or surprising. But until the play devolves into predictable violence, it's a refreshingly intelligent drama of social consciousness that--despite occasional bursts of the Pogues, Clash, and Sex Pistols--is most effective in its quietest moments, when Farrell and Cox mine the play for its human elements, not its right-minded but unsophisticated polemics. --Adam Langer