Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

The Good Thief
The Midnight Company

Also see Bob's review of Ella

There's a whole pub full of people populating Conor McPherson's The Good Thief, and they're all played by Joe Hanrahan. The central character describes his occupation thusly:

I was working for Joe Murray at this time as a paid thug.

I scared people for him.

Set fire to places.

Shot people. As warnings.

He's not a bad guy, though, and you'd probably enjoy having a pint with him, if you weren't on the list of people to be scared. He's a grand talker, generous within his own limitations, and even has half a conscience and some degree of self-reflection, although he doesn't quite know what to do with them. He simply is what he is, informing us that he "hates people with skills who can do stuff" before describing a brutal beating delivered to a shoe repairman, then justifying it all by telling us that he refuses to restrain his personality because he believes it could lead to problems.

One day the thief puts on his balaclava, loads up his Webley, and sets out to deliver a "warning" to a warehouse owner a bit behind in his payments. This time, however, he is greeted at the door of his intended victim's home by another bloke in a balaclava, accompanied by a fellow bearing an automatic rifle. Much excitement ensues, which leads to the thief's escape with the wife and daughter of the intended victim, some double-crossing and unexpected mercy, and finally to his sitting in the pub telling us his story.

Joe Hanrahan's performance, directed by Sarah Whitney, is mesmerizing. The thief's tale, which lasts just over an hour, is so absorbing that you'll lose all sense of time and place early in the telling. You'll also forget that you are watching one person, in one location, using no more props than two bar stools, a glass and a bottle of Scotch: the story seems as big as the world, and many characters who figure in it are as vivid as if they were actually present in the room with you.

There's also the redemptive nature of storytelling at work. Brutal as the thief's tale can be, the act of sharing it creates a bond between teller and audience, so that for an hour, at least, we are all less alone in the world.

The title's meaning may seem obscure, since the central character is not a thief at all but what we would call a "legbreaker" or "enforcer." The reference is to Saint Dismas, the thief crucified next to Jesus who repented of his sins and was granted a place in heaven. Although McPherson's good thief never explicitly denounces his former life (such a statement would be entirely out of character), his basic decency and flashes of self-realization demonstrate that redemption can be visited on the most unlikely of souls.

The Good Thief will continue through April 10 at Dressel's Pub in the Central West End. Ticket information is available from 314-487-5305 or from

Cast and Crew
Actor: Joe Hanrahan
Director: Sarah Whitney
Stage Manager: Linda Menard
Playwright: Conor McPherson

Photo: Todd Davis

-- Sarah Boslaugh

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