Theater is a collaborative art form, perhaps the most so. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a township to put on a show. But in terms of onstage talent, Road Less Traveled Productions' "The Good Thief" is a solo effort, one deftly handled by local he-can-do-it-all actor Brian Riggs.
Conor McPherson's "The Good Thief" -- only the tip of the iceberg of contradictions in this brutally spun monologue -- is theatrical storytelling in its most traditional form. A drunk Irish thief has found a wall to sleep on in the back of a bar. With a history of violence -- from armed robbery to kidnapping -- and a desire to make sense of it all, or at least a friend, he goes through the motions that led him to his current dire straights.
The show runs through April 2 in the New Phoenix Theatre, 95 Johnson Park. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and students with ID, and can be purchased by phone at 629-3069.
Riggs, whose stage performances have ranged from Sondheim to Shakespeare, shared some thoughts on this very tortured thief.
>What are the circumstances that allow this lonely man (named simply, "Thief") to tell his story to us?
It's a memory play, and I'm reliving it in my mind at a bar. I'm reliving this, 10 years after it's happened, probably for the first time. He's just gotten out of jail. It's probably the first time he's ever said it out loud, and it's his second chance. At this point, he needs to get this off his chest in order to change.
> How does a man grow up to commit some heinous crimes?
It's his way; he was brought up never loved in a broken home. Greta is so symbolic for him, because Greta reminds him of his mother and of his family. His mother took off at a young age. He was ignored and neglected. So he has no regard for anyone because of that.
>What is your take on her choices in staging this play?
Kelli and I talked about the intimacy being in the storytelling. I can be talking to a complete stranger, and I can be talking to someone I know very well in the face. That connection drives this play.
>What is the challenge in balancing your performance when on a stage with a supporting cast in a musical and when you take on an entire text with a monologue?
I consider myself an actor before a singer, but I studied musical theater at [SUNY] Fredonia. [But most importantly,] I like taking on characters that are different and that I haven't done before. I'll take on anything that's a challenge.
>This is an atypical show for local audiences to immediately embrace, due to its subject matter and language and the fact that it's not a big production.
Well, people shouldn't be afraid of this. There's a lot that people can relate to. We all have angst, we all have regrets.
-- Benjamin Siegel, Special to The News