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Spellbinding “St. Nicholas” Is Sheer Theatrical Magic

Jerome Davis stars in "St. Nicholas" (photo by Right Image Photography, Inc.)

Jerome Davis stars in "St. Nicholas" (photo by Right Image Photography, Inc.)

It’s not often that a theater reviewer gets to recommend a production — in 2010 — that was on his 2000 top 10 list. But that’s the case with Burning Coal Theatre Company’s gripping presentation of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s spellbinding vampire story, a wonderfully fanciful one-man show called St. Nicholas for no easily discernable reason. Once again staged with style and wit by New York director Randolph Curtis Rand and performed with great panache — and a knowing wink — by Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis, St. Nicholas is an exquisite one-of-a-kind edge-of-your-seat theatrical experience like nothing else that this critic has witnessed in more than 40 years of reviewing.

St. Nicholas is a did-he-or-didn’t-he? tale told by an overweight, perpetually sozzled, and all-around nasty Dublin theater critic, who goes middle-aged-crazy when he becomes besotted with the beautiful young actress performing the title role in a execrable London-bound production of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé. After he savagely pans Salomé’s Dublin performances, The Critic abruptly abandons home and hearth — not to mention a wife of many years and two nearly grown children — to follow the object of his affections to London, where she cuts him dead and he goes on an epic bender, passes out in a deserted park, and wakes up — after dark — just in time to meet William the vampire, who takes him home to meet his five drop-dead gorgeous (pun intended) vampire brides.

Although Jerry Davis’ Irish accent comes and goes, his passion for this plum part never wavers; and he holds the audience spellbound with The Critic’s increasingly fantastic account of his dangerous liaison with a vampire coven preying on unsuspecting twenty-somethings picked up — three sheets to the wind — at trendy pubs in a London suburb.

While Jerry Davis is demonstrating his mastery of the storyteller’s art, director Randy Rand is shaping the story — behind the scenes — into a masterpiece of suspense. The play — and The Critic’s story — begins with a voice literally in the dark, then Davis flicks on a desk lamp, and ultimately the lights come up as he paces the stage, recounting The Critic’s eerie encounter with the Undead.

The opening beats in the dark might work a little better if there was the cherry glow of the tip of a lit cigarette or a gray aromatic curl of pipe smoke to announce The Critic’s presence in the moments before he speaks. But that’s a minor quibble with a mesmerizing piece that demonstrates conclusively that theatrical lightning can strike twice, in different locations, when a theater troupe combines genius with genius in 2000 and again in 2010 and conjures up magic, sheer magic.

SECOND OPINION: Nov. 6th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: (To read the Nov. 5th Triangle Arts and Entertainment online version of the Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

Burning Coal Theatre Company presents ST. NICHOLAS, starring Jerome Davis, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11-13 and 18-20 and 2 p.m. Nov. 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 $10 Thursdays and $5 Student Rush Tickets (available at the door, 5 minutes before curtain).

BOX OFFICE: 919/834-4001 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets for $12 each): 919/834-4001.






NOTE: At 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13th, poet David Nelson Bradsher and professor and author Carlos Rojas will deliver a “Lobby Lecture” on the nature of vampires in popular culture. The lecture is FREE to anyone holding a ticket for any performance of St. Nicholas and $5 to everyone else. For details, call 919/834-4001.


The Playwright: (Wikipedia), (Internet Broadway Database), and (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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