For his production of “The Smuggler”, the Urbanite Theater has been transformed into a warm and inviting bar, where an Irish immigrant tells the story of his struggles to succeed in the United States and the criminal activities he undertook to help support his family. .
This immigrant is called Tim Finnegan and he played, like all the other characters in Ronan Noones play, by Gilles Davies. He prepares drink specials for a few onlookers (or bar patrons) seated at small round tables as he leads us into his captivating and sometimes sordid story.
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Timmy has a mischievous quality, but with a smile and a glint in his eye that makes him surprisingly charismatic and insinuating. (The pointy vest, tie, and strips of fabric around the sleeves of his striped shirt in Dee Sullivan’s suit add to a classic image.) You’ll forgive him for almost anything, even when his history of theft from undocumented immigrants trying to escape. get theirs. beginning in this country takes its darkest turns.
During Saturday night’s performance, there were times when I sat both horrified and charmed, watching Davies gently wrap us in his web of deception and crime.
Oh, and Noone’s screenplay is written mostly in rhyming verse, but as performed by Davies and directed by co-artistic director Brendan Ragan, it feels so natural that the rhymes feel like more of an afterthought or coincidence. You barely notice they’re there until you do.
The verse style gives the playwright a structure to tell the story, but I’m not sure what it adds to the way it’s told. But overall, it has an impact.
Tim is a bartender by night and a stay-at-home dad and writer by day and the way he weaves this story makes you think he could become a successful writer if he had just the kind of break that eludes him.
Or maybe it’s one he actually wrote and published, and Tim just found a unique way to share it with the public.
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Either way, for about 70 minutes, Davies takes you through Tim’s story and the struggles that begin when the bar he works at closes and his wife is forced to change jobs. With a baby at home, the pressure is on to make money. One evening, while pouring drinks, a customer talks about making a fortune by acting as a kind of coyote for undocumented workers, helping them get established and charging them exorbitant interest that must be repaid before they are “free”.
Tim is intrigued to get in on the action, but he also has his own twisted way of capitalizing on the situation.
As Tim reminisces about what happens, we see Davies playing Tim’s various clients; his wife, Tina; in-laws; colleagues in a construction company; and most impressively, a seemingly oversized and vicious animal that becomes one of the production highlights.
Davies is truly a charmer throughout and Ragan directed the play, so it always feels like Tim is walking away from the bar to tell the story. It fits in perfectly, and it looks so appealing on the impressive bar set created by Frank Chavez and co-lit by Simean Carpenter, which adds to the warm and inviting feel.
As amusing as it is to hear, Tim’s story is also a chilling and disturbing reminder of the desperation that leads to so much crime in our society and the lengths some people will go to to stay afloat.
By Ronan Noone. Directed by Brendan Ragan. Revised January 15. Urbanite Theater, 1487 Second St., Sarasota. Until February 20. 941-321-1397; urbanitetheatre.com