Review: Black Comedy DEN OF THIEVES Trusses You Up in Laughter

By: Jan. 17, 2016

DEN OF THIEVES/written by Stephen Adly Guirgis/directed by Eric Augusztiny/Hudson Guild Theatre/thru February 7, 2016

2Cents Theatre mounts a tight, thoroughly entertaining DEN OF THIEVES smartly written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. Eric Augusztiny deftly directs his very talented cast of seven in a machine gun pace. What starts off as a realistic encounter of two members of a kleptomaniacs anonymous meeting morphs into an over-the-top burglary gone beyond bad, with much genuine pathos amidst the laughs resulting out of the absurd truthfulness of the impending circumstances.

Nothing funny about Maggie admitting to Paul that she just lapsed and shoplifted a bag full of groceries, and that's why she called him to come over. Paul sees progress in Maggie's fighting her thieving addiction as she has reached out to him for help. Alison Quinn, as the not-always clearheaded Maggie, sturdily grounds the ensemble of crazies, perfectly balancing the realism versus the idealism/naiveté of all the other characters. As Paul, the principled, upright recovering addict (to sooo many addictions) never knowing when to stop talking, Frank Gallegos wavers convincingly enough to still resemble having a backbone and willpower. (This is a compliment.)

Kevin Herrmann as Flaco, Maggie's ex and "brains" of the featured heist, vividly projects simultaneously street smarts, stupidity and bluster; later making a substantially reasonable argument for his irrational behaviors. Nice! Paulina Gamiz, as Boochie, Flaco's current woman, skillfully uses her sexuality/her body as the only tool she expertly knows how to utilize to get her ways. But beneath Boochie's dumbness facade, Gamiz craftily bares her deeply hidden vulnerability and pain.

In the second act; the burglary targets (the mob) get introduced and dominate the proceedings as the four bungling thieves are hooded and tied up in individual chairs. (Very funny physical comedy bit of Gallegos' Paul and Herrmann's Flaco wiggling in their respective ropes trying to 'attack' each other.) Eric Geller, as Big Tuna's nephew Sal and Little Tuna's babysitter, excels as the burly hitman with a gambling crutch and the ongoing humiliation of having to answer to Little Tuna's every whim. Chris Lanehart, as Little Tuna, easily vacillates between his tough guy persona and his inner sensitivity, too soft to follow in his mob leader-father's footsteps. Cris D'Annunzio strongly limns Big Tuna, a godfather with paternal concerns for his not-so-tough son.

Via the absurdity of the juxtaposition of choosing which of the four amongst themselves is to be killed and the silly games the four play to decide their fatal fate, Guirgis manages to expose the human qualities these four didn't even know they were capable of. Brilliant writing performed by a spot-on cast. These actors all reach beneath their character's stereotypic traits revealing their individual humanity. Not a false note in anyone's portrayal of these intricately fine-drawn, three-dimensional people.

Kudos to Nicholas Acciani's basic utilitarian set design, making for an easy efficient set change between Maggie's sparse, barren apartment to Big Tuna's wood paneled den.