The Good Thief
This unsettling yarn of an Irish thug is spun flawlessly by Ken Webster
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., July 15, 2011
The Good Thief
Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 479-7529
Through Aug. 6
Running time: 1 hr.
The lights come up, briefly, before you turn this page: Kenneth Wayne Webster on a dull gray stage.
See him sitting there, this artistic director of Hyde Park Theatre, this relentless producer of plays, this perennial mouthpiece of monologues. See him sitting there, gray against the gray. His shirt is white with vertical gray stripes, camouflaging him into the subtle shades dripping on the background; his jeans are faded to a sort of gray; and his once-black hair – because Webster's been doing this sort of thing, and doing it exceedingly well, for almost three decades – is also streaked with shoulder-length gray.
What's colorful, always, is what the man's got to say, and this time it's in the voice of an Irish thug who's the terrorizing muscle for a small-time crime boss over there in the dark, pub-filled heart of the Emerald Isle. (Conor McPherson wrote this hourlong piece, the same award-winning McPherson who provided the words for Webster's previous solo show, St. Nicholas. Because the Port Arthur actor has this, well, this thing, it seems, for writers who are Irish or Canadian. To be a fan of Webster is to be a member of the Mc-Mac Club.)
But so this thug. He gets himself into a situation, see, where a fellow he was supposed to merely threaten winds up shot and killed. And now the thug's got to kidnap the man's widow and kid. He's on the lam from both the Irish authorities and the torpedo of his treacherous boss. And did we mention that the thug's former girlfriend broke his heart months ago by ditching him to shack up with that very boss? The thug mentions it. Oh, he mentions it a lot. It's one of several things eating at his rough heart from the inside out.
I'm not going to get into my own whole thing here about how Webster and HPT by extension occupy a unique and necessary niche in the local theatre scene, about how they're this solid island of otherness in a choppy sea made of groundbreaking original stage works, slick and polished Broadway-style hits, and crappy community theatre. I'll just say that I've come to expect certain qualities from the man and what he chooses to do, either solo or with his protean stable of actors. And The Good Thief delivers that just as well – oh, flawlessly, I'd reckon – as Webster delivers this unsettling and strangely poignant monologue.
You like those crime movies from across the pond, friend? You like cinematic upheavals like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and The Long Good Friday? You're gonna love this shit here almost as much as you love a pint after a good shag with that leggy bird from down the way.