By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Produced and directed by Tim Shane, Den of Thieves boasts a cast of seven whose jittery acting reeks of fake enthusiasm and a lack of technique. Acting this overeager and obvious usually is reserved for Kool-Aid commercials and high school UIL contests. Shane commits that cardinal sin of directing, too, lining up his actors like a firing squad instead of moving them around in interesting ways.
Execution is a problem with everyone onstage. As shoplifter Maggie, Allison McCorkle either fails to achieve a passable Brooklyn accent or she has a terrible speech impediment. As Paul, Maggie's 12-step partner, Ramses Paul is dressed like Urkel and plays his part as though trying to channel Eddie Murphy's idiotic Jiff from Bowfinger. Both images are at odds with Guirgis' depiction of Paul as a smooth, though insecure, master criminal.
Carrie Pickering, letting it all hang out as a hooker named Boochie, chews gum (making her dialogue unintelligible) and wears a skirt so obscenely short she Sharon Stones the audience. As Sal, a gun-waving hoodlum, Baris Tuncer speaks in an accent Benicio del Toro couldn't decipher. James Warila, as a mobster named Little Tuna, is such a wooden actor you want to use that chain saw on him. And Jeff Swearingen, so exciting a month ago as a Cockney git in Theatre Quorum's Dealer's Choice, has gone slumming in this crowd as a Latino hip-hopper named Flaco. He was more believable as a Cockney.
Even with better performers, Den of Thieves still wouldn't amount to much. The jokes are dumb and the situation downright icky. When the four hapless thieves are caught mid-heist by the mobsters, they have to pick one of their own to be shot at dawn as punishment. (Ah, now I get the firing-squad blocking.) Much of Act 2 takes place with Boochie, Flaco, Maggie and Paul tied to folding chairs with pillowcases over their heads. That image is just too reminiscent of those disturbing videos of hostages in the Middle East.
To appreciate good theater, perhaps it's valuable now and then to witness the other kind. That would be the only reason to recommend Den of Thieves.
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