"Knaves and thieves"
Cornelius Christian shouting the words up at the ceiling. As the faces turn around. All the way back into the dark interior.
"Hey buddy what's bothering you."
"Knaves and thieves"
"Hey fella you ain't by any chance a medievalist out on a spree."
"You knaves and thieves, give that man a prize."
"Buddy you better quieten down or I'm going to throw you out."
"To the joust. Knaves and thieves. To the joust."
- J.P. Donleavy from A Fairy Tale of New York
first-rate actors make 'Fairy Tales' come to life"
by Paul de Barros
Seattle is blessed with such a bounty of theatrical talent that it's no longer a shock when four actors draw us helplessly into a plausible and fascinating world, with little more than a warehouse, some old bleachers and a couple of meager sets.
That's what A Theatre Under the Influence is doing this month with J.P. Donleavy's adaptation for the stage of his 1973 novel, "Fairy Tales of New York," and this bounty should not go unnoted or unrewarded.
Like everyone else of a certain age, I read Donleavy's comic novel, "The Ginger Man," back in the 60s, and while I have fond memories of its perpetually ravenous protagonist, I admit to having never read another word by his creator.
And while I'm not sure that will change, this picaresque, life-affirming series of vignettes held my interest, all the more reason to praise its purveyors.
"Fairy Tales of New York" tells the story of a repressed, fussy but ambitious little man returning to the city of his childhood, New York, after a long stay in Europe, and the culture shock he endures in the process.
His encounters with a mugger, a stevedore, the director of a funeral home, a corporate salesman, a blustering recreational boxer, a young woman on a date and some snooty waiters paint a loving caricature of the American character - brash, loud, optimistic, competitive, manipulative and full of hope as well as fatal darkness.
Between each scene, one of the actors reads a bit from the text, accomplishing a gradual transition, without fanfare, from the reality of the bleachers to the reality of the play.
The actors are first-rate, particularly the forceful Charles Leggett, who establishes a high technical level at the start, with his swift switches in the same breath from a Brooklyn to British accent. Brandon Whitehead as the anti-hero, Cornelius Christian, makes his slow transformation from spinachy superiority to exuberant risk-taking completely believable.
Andy McCone, as a slick but somewhat baffled salesman for a spark-plug company, finds a resonant chemistry with Whitehead, in the play's best scene. And Jen Taylor, playing a dizzying array of feminine types, from innocent to floozy, does a smashing job (though her British gets a little flopsy in one of the reading segments).
Director Craig Bradshaw clearly has a strong affection for this material, which, with a minimal budget has maximum talent, he has conveyed with aplomb
To purchase books by J.P. Donleavy, go to the Buyers' Guide.