Burning Coal Theatre Company guest director Randolph Curtis Rand and actor Jerome Davis will reprise their critically acclaimed roles in St. Nicholas, a delightfully devilish one-man show by Dublin-born award-winning Irish playwright, screenwriter, and director Conor McPherson (The Weir and The Seafarer), on Nov. 4-7, 11-14, and 18-21 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School in the historic Oakwood Section of downtown Raleigh, NC. Among many other honors, McPherson won the 1999 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play for The Weir.
“I read [St. Nicholas] when it was first published, probably 14 years ago,” remembers Burning Coal artistic director Jerry Davis. “I’d read, then seen The Weir in London, and I loved it. So, I pretty much read everything else Conor McPherson had written to that point.”
Davis, who plays a highly opinionated, hard-drinking, overweight Dublin theater critic with a whale of a tale to tell in St. Nicholas, declares, “I like [the play’s] simplicity, the fact that it is just storytelling. I like that it is about something, [and] that the people in the play are genuinely struggling to figure out how to live their lives in a way that will make them happy, but not make those around them miserable.
“[St. Nicholas] is truly a play about good and evil,” claims Jerry Davis, “but not like some ridiculous Hollywood claptrap that a Clint Eastwood or Quentin Tarantino would concoct. Strangely, the play is about true human emotions. I say strangely, because it is also about vampires!”
He recalls, “We [staged the Southeastern premiere of St. Nicholas] 10 years ago, in February 2000. Twenty inches of snow fell on Raleigh, and stayed for the whole month, which caused us to have to cancel all but, I think, three performances. One girl with multiple piercings, jet black/blue hair, and a leather skirt came to see every performance, and brought friends. I have no idea who she was, but hope she comes back again!”
When the curtain rises on St. Nicholas, Jerry Davis says, “The Critic is sitting in a theater, telling a group of people something that happened to him recently. It involves a beautiful young actress and a coven of vampires.”
In addition to New York director Randy Rand, who previously staged To Kill a Mockingbird, The Historie of King Henrie the Fourth, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin and starred in The Seafarer and Love’s Labours Lost for Burning Coal Theatre Company, the St. Nicholas creative team includes technical director Mark Peelman, set designer Snow (a.k.a. Rand and New York actor Marc Bovino), lighting designer ED Intemann, sound designer Aharon Segal, and stage manager Melissa Ricketts.
Jerry Davis says the challenge of reprising a production that the theater first tackled 10 years ago is: Keeping it fresh.” He explains, “With only one actor, you can’t rely on the tricks of the trade like composition, group movement, etc. It really has to all come from the simple telling of the story, and whatever the audience’s imagination makes of that.”
In reviewing Burning Coal’s February 2000 for Spectator Magazine, this critic called the production “absolutely brilliant” and raved:
“… This mesmerizing monologue [by Conor McPherson] sounds like the ultimate shaggy-dog story, but it has the undeniable power to move audience members to the edge of their sets — and keep them there, hanging on each word.
“St. Nicholas is an intricate — and increasingly improbable — tale of a nasty, drunken, overweight Dublin theater critic’s epic mid-life crisis, which begins when he falls in love with Helen, a beautiful and talented young actress half his age, and continues as he unwisely pursues Helen from Dublin to London, where he meets William the Vampire and his coven of five gorgeous female vampires….
“When St. Nicholas was first performed in the Bush Theatre London in 1997, playwright Conor McPherson cast Brian Cox as The Critic. But in the current production, Jerome Davis makes the role of the critic entirely his own by carefully, convincingly varying his phrasing and inserting pregnant pauses and meaningful stares, He gets deep under the jaded critic’s skin — indeed, he becomes that vain, bloated, mean-spirited, but undeniably influential journalist.
“Director Randolph Curtis Rand undoubtedly helped shape and pace Davis’ character. But it is Jerome Davis’ personal triumph, maybe his career-best performance….”
Burning Coal Theatre Company presents ST. NICHOLAS, starring Jerome Davis, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4-6, 11-13, and 18-20 and 2 p.m. Nov. 7, 14, and 21 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $20 ($15 students, seniors 65+, and active-duty military personnel), except Nov. 7th pay-what-you-can performance, $10 Thursdays, and $5 Student Rush Tickets (available at the door, 5 minutes before curtain).
BOX OFFICE: 919/834-4001 or http://www.etix.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets for $12 each): 919/834-4001.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsQmwX-hSSs.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. Nov. 7th performance.
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conor_McPherson (Wikipedia), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=4900 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0574217/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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