By Byrne Harrison
It's a rare thing to see a truly riveting one-man show. It takes a combination of an excellent script, strong direction, and a talented actor who can hold the audience in the palm of his hand. The Theatre of the Expendable production of Conor McPherson's St. Nicholas has all three.
McPherson's story about a jaded Irish drama critic, his obsession with a young actress, and his eventual servitude to a coven of vampires is a marvelous tale. Spun out slowly with tantalizing hints of the supernatural story, McPherson paints a picture of a frustrated man who tries to drown his self-loathing with food and drink and by crushing the artists he both despises and longs to be.
Darrell James truly brings this unnamed critic to life. At times full of bluster, at others whispering to draw the audience in, he never falters or hits a false note. Although James spends much of the play in the lone chair on stage, casually talking to the audience, there is so much energy and movement in his performance, from grand gestures to the slight curl of a lip or cocking of his head, that it's only when he stands up to prowl the stage that it hits home that he's been seated the whole time. James' true strength lies in his ability to respond to the audience; like a true storyteller, he knows the best way to keep the audience rapt is to make them part of the story, even if it's just by acknowledging a laugh or a gasp.
Lighting designer Ryan Metzler creates a suitably moody atmosphere for the production, creating lighting that subtly lightens and fades depending on James' speech, letting James play the audience by pulling them in tight, then letting them pull away and catch their breath. Director Jesse Edward Rosbrow keeps the production tense and moving (both physically and emotionally), creating a tight well-crafted production.
If there is one thing I regret about this production, it is that I didn't see it earlier in it's run.
By Conor McPherson
Directed by Jesse Edward Rosbrow
Lighting Designer: Ryan Metzler
Costuem and Properties Consultant: Jennifer Raskopf
Stage Manager: Melissa A. Nathan
Graphic Desinger: Duncan Pflaster
Audience Development: Michael Roderick
Press Representative: Emily Owens PR
Produced by Alexander Koo, Arienne Pelletier, Jesse Edward Rosbrow
Featuring: Darrell James
The WorkShop Theater
312 W. 36th Street, 4th Floor