The Good Thief, NorthSide Productions, at Breadline Theatre. Fans of Conor McPherson, the overrated young playwright whose precious The Weir is getting star treatment at Steppenwolf, are being offered another chance to marvel at his chatty self-indulgence with the midwest premiere of The Good Thief, a one-man show of incidental proportions.
An Irish thug reminisces about a botched crime that led him on an ultraviolent journey to a little girl in a blue dress. The script's graphic descriptions of bullet-riddled bodies and bloody home invasions may have seemed hip in 1994, when the play premiered, but today it seems terribly dated. And McPherson's writing--the ramblings of a Tarantino disciple--just can't support such dead weight. One wonders what kind of personal demons McPherson was dealing with when he wrote this play in his early 20s: he seems utterly obsessed with domestic violence, retribution, and a woman "getting it up the arse." Yet he wants us to understand, as the title implies, that this murderer locates virtue in small details--playing with babies, buying ice cream for his captives, not killing helpless women. "I just wanted to make someone happy," the thief says. I don't buy it.
As unevenly directed by Lila M. Stromer, Joseph Bowen gives this ruffian with a heart of gold a solidly accented, easygoing voice. But Bowen's range is limited--other than gesturing, shifting in his seat, and gulping from a glass, he never moves, trapping his character in a one-note world.