Review by Kathleen Campion
After you see Little Thing, Big Thing, now at 59E59 Theaters You leave the theater with the sense you’ve been told a wonderful bedtime story—but you are now too stimulated to sleep.
Donal O’Kelly (Larry) and Sorcha Fox (Martha) pull faces and strike challenging postures, and invent nuanced voices, building a cast of slippery characters you could identify in a lineup; they’re that well defined. As you sit snug in your seat in the dark, the actors force your imagination into play. With no more that a framed stage and a couple of chairs, no costume changes, no props to speak of, two actors deliver a baker’s dozen of credible people. What’s more, they do all the sound and fury too, right down to the rumble of an old van traversing a cattle grid.
Like a clever child in the thrall of a tale, you join them on their improbable journey. The story itself is shameless in incorporating rafts of too-familiar plot points—the virtuous nun with a past, the damning evidence, which she’s to deliver, of a long-ago crime; the ne’er-do-well lad with the heart of gold, rising to the moment; the evil corporate exec, the corrupt authorities, the junky with a conscience—I could go on. There’s even a Houdini moment!
It may not be Cary Grant helping Eva Marie Saint off Mt. Rushmore, but Little Thing, Big Thing is a ‘chase’ story at it’s core. The bad guys, to cover their tracks, want to grab the evidence the nun is carrying and will do whatever they must. And, as with Hitchcock, it’s about two normal people caught in something bigger than themselves. These ‘little’ people must at least try to do a “big” thing.
The actual big thing here is a detailed, subtle, committed performance. The plot is furry with tangents but the performers are steady and true. You believe them every minute.
It’s an Irish play, part of the 1st Irish Festival, in fact. So the word play has a special Hibernian flavor always worth attending. For example, the distain for the big Church and it’s hoarding of Vatican treasures juxtaposed with a ‘little larceny’ rings true and funny. Less broad—and so more fun—are quick flashes that you catch or you don’t. Harken to Sister Martha’s tribute to the quality of her lost lover’s sermons.
Not sure this comment belongs in the body of the review as it refers to an odd choice in the program not the play. Apparently concerned that an American audience might be too dim to get the Irish argot, the program people provided a helpful glossary of terms…well intentioned, if a tad patronizing.
Other than that, Little Thing, Big Thing was a wonderful night in the theater.
Little Thing, Big Thing written by Donal O’Kelly; directed by Jim Culleton
WITH: Sorcha Fox , Donal O’Kelly
Presented by Fishamble and part of the 1st Irish Festival. John Comiskey handles lighting and set design, Maria Tapper does costumes, and Carl Kennedy sound design. I’m not at all sure what a ‘relighter’ does but Michael O’Connor does it here. (Maybe it’s an Irish thing? Not in the glossary.)
Little Thing, Big Thing is at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, Manhattan, through September 27th. Running time 1 hour 20 minutes without an intermission.