The Good Thief. Conor Lovett stars in a play written
by Conor McPherson and directed by Judy Hegarty-Lovett. At the
Rubicon Theatre, Sunday, August 13. Plays through September

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

thegoodthief003.jpgTo the strains of Gavin Bryars’s
melancholy composition “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” Conor
Lovett takes the stage at the Rubicon alone, faced with holding the
attention of an audience for more than an hour without props,
jokes, or other actors. Thanks to an engaging script by Conor
McPherson, and the deft direction of Judy Hegarty-Lovett, but
mostly due to his own sheer skill and determination, Lovett manages
to do just that, bringing everyone present into the dangerous,
desperate world of a Dublin thug.

More than an hour in the exclusive company of a man who admits
he is a violent criminal may not be everyone’s idea of a good time,
and the good question of whether or not to care for this “good
thief” is left up to the viewer. Insofar that Lovett’s character
defies the brutality of his environment, he earns our sympathy, and
although he never rises to the ethical level of a traditional hero,
he nevertheless is recognizably “good” — but perhaps not as good as
we might wish.

The Good Thief resembles a cross between Samuel Beckett’s How It
Is and the film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, but there’s
more than a match between existentialism and criminality. Its roots
are in medieval Christianity and folklore, as befits its Irish
setting. First, there’s the “good thief” Dismas who, according to
the Gospel of Luke, was one of the two men crucified with Jesus.
When Gestas, the “bad thief,” mocks Jesus, Dismas tells him to shut
up, and asserts that, while they are guilty and deserve their
punishment, Jesus has done no wrong. Like Dismas, who stands up to
his more callous fellow thief, this character saves a woman and her
daughter from certain death as witnesses to a murder. Yet in the
bloody carnage that follows the more corrupt bosses through the
tale, there is also an element that recalls Chaucer’s “The
Pardoner’s Tale,” another story told by a character who has seen it

Lovett’s lilting brogue is in tune with his laconic delivery,
which has something of Christopher Walken about it. The economical
direction is wonderfully effective. When Lovett finally moves from
in front of the gray scrim and stands on the open stage, the
implication is clear — he has stepped free of his past. Of course,
when events turn against him minutes later, and he returns to his
original spot, we also feel that powerful sense of disappointment
and despair.


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