Review: THE SMUGGLER at Jobsite Theater

With many performances already sold out, you cannot miss this one-handed tour-de-force through June 9, 2024

By: May. 18, 2024
Review: THE SMUGGLER at Jobsite Theater
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“I came here first, but I went to Ellis Island...it’s worth repeating...”

“The streets of America were paved with gold...”

“The price you pay for American Individualism...”

Many times, I look at the cultural landscape and all its vast plethora of fortune we have been given in the Tampa Bay area alone, and one things for certain, I will move mountains, stop at nothing to experience theatre that moves me and thrills me to the core. Taking me out of the present worldview, away from daily trials and tribulations and into the stories of many characters, or in this case, one singular character that will allow me to invest time in their plight.

Generally speaking there are many ways to fulfill this Theatrical desire in one’s heart, the want and yearning to escape to a land or time different than our own. With each company harnessing a different niche within the market, and creating their own little spot on the proverbial map, and the fine folks at Jobsite Theater have done this once again.

Giles Davies has an inherent magnetism about him every time he steps onto the stage. So, in my opinion, there is no better person to harness the intensity of this character, and leave you breathless, than in the hands of the impressive work Mr. Davies gives tenfold. Everything delivered in this 80-minute monologue will leave you hanging on every word and on the edge of your seat. Mr. Davies marvelously and expertly reaches each individual person in the audience, in every corner of the room through this one of a kind immersive experience. Whether its bringing shots to audience members, or reacting to patrons placed right on stage in the middle of it all, Giles Davies will grab you by the jugular and keep hold until the final light drop.

This travelogue of sorts is delivered in such a way, the audience will feel every depth of the human condition. From deep despair to the light of redemption Ronan Noone’s piece will make you laugh, cry and think right along with its central character, all delivered in a verse of words that is so intricately woven together, its almost spellbinding.

Ronan Noone is often asked, “...how did this play begin...” He graciously maps out the play’s beginnings in a narrative published on his website, while insightful, it states, the beginning process, indulge me if you will as I include some moments that stuck out to me,

“...I arrived in America, in 1994, I visited Ellis Island, and I read this quote on the wall. “Well, I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: first, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them.” Old Italian Story.”

“...When we come to America we are always trying to find pieces of home so we can settle in with some ease.”

“And one day in the early 2000’s, I was painting with a young Brazilian woman on Martha’s Vineyard....She had heard that I worked as a journalist for a time. And through a translator she told me about her journey crossing the border into America using a “Coyote,” people smugglers....But during her story, the image that struck me the most was when she described the time she crossed the river at night into a field on the American side. She said the Coyote pushed her to the ground, told her to lay flat and close her eyes...”

“I think the fact she was told she was safer with her eyes closed has become a metaphor for this story, and an illustration of how we deal with Immigration issues in America.”

Profound indeed. If you’d like to read the whole narrative you can find it by visiting, https://www.ronannoone.com/the-smuggler-1.

Back to the moment at hand, in Mr. Davies’ exceptionally skilled hands, Ronan Noone’s loosely based version of verse sounds skillfully natural. Even the quote Noone read on the wall at Ellis Island is profoundly interlaced in the verse and allows the audience to begin a journey unlike anything they have had the chance to experience. Painting a picture as if we were immigrants right along with the character, and seeing America for the first time.

Giles Davies is a masterclass in performance, and in harnessing dialects. Never once are we taken out of the story, and everything flows seamlessly, flawlessly together, its as if Giles were telling his own story.

As the show begins, the sounds of Frank Sinatra fill the room as we meet Tim Finnegan, the Irish Smuggler, and bartender for the nights events. He moves through the space with ease, as if he has been behind a bar all of his life. Serving some lucky patrons a concoction of sorts, and the words begin to flow as smooth as liquor from a bottle. A tight 80 minute run time that feels like mere seconds. Throughout the story, Davies delivers ten fold, extreme ups and downs of the characters’ plight, including his first experience with killing someone, that will jar you to the core of your being.

Technically a marvel, The Smuggler is a work of sheer brilliance. Set Design by Michael Horn, cohesively in cahoots with the brilliant lightning design by Jo Averill-Snell, creates an immersive and almost otherworldly aspect of a Speakeasy type set. Giles Davies dons a white button down, with sleeves cuffed at the elbow, a vest, and skinny jeans, allowing us to be transported in the SpeakEasy vibes of the world. The costumes by Katrina Stevenson fit the world of the show perfectly and are wonderfully rendered. Kudos to the design team for its flawless execution. Known for their beautifully rendered scenic and technically elements, this is flat out one of the most exquisite, and beautifully designed shows you will find yourself lucky enough to experience. Not a flaw to be seen, and a beautifully rendered world that gives not only the performer, but the audience a unique and exciting place to play, even if for a brief time.

Director David Jenkins delivers top-notch artistry here, creating a tight-knit sequence of events that is expertly staged from each moment to moment. You will laugh, cry, and be left thinking about the events laid before you. Giles Davies coupled with Jenkins’ vision is masterful and proving that anything, and everything is possible. David Jenkins and team have once again proved why Jobsite continues to be on the cutting edge of Theatrical staging, both in storytelling, and design, no one does it like Jobsite. Harnessing the bizarre, the thrilling, and often peculiar storytelling, makes Jobsite the place to be for something slightly different but powerful all the same. Truly stunning and exceptional work.

Get lost in Ronan Noone’s captivating tale, with The Smuggler: A Thriller in Verse, onstage through June 9th, 2024. Hurry on over to the button below for tickets, but don’t wait, for last call is just around the corner, and you DO NOT want to find yourself on the outside looking in. For a production of this magnitude, and sheer brilliance doesn’t come around everyday, and I for one am thankful for Jobsite, thankful for the masterclass, and thankful for this moment to, “...Come fly with away...” with exceptional company to keep.

PHOTO CREDIT: STAGE PHOTOGRAPHY OF TAMPA LLC-SPOT




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