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‘St. Nicholas’ is amazing 2 hours of storytelling

January 16, 2019

If I were to tell you this new show at the Goodman Theatre connects journalism and vampires, a percentage of you would need to know nothing more. Tickets would fly away.

For those of you not moved by the idea that arrogant journalists and theater critics may suffer several or more slings and arrows via this production, perhaps you might be moved by who is delivering the monologue in this one-man play. It’s Brendan Coyle, who you may know as Mr. John Bates, the long-suffering and complex valet introduced to millions via the British television series, “Downton Abbey.”

Anyone remaining? If so, then those who are Irish will all fall when I tell you the play, “St. Nicholas,” is by the award-winning Conor McPherson. This very youngish old soul, despite his many accomplishments, has done a breathtaking job imaging the soul-sapping pain and fear that can accompany middle age while posing as failure, cynicism and burnout.

But no matter what brings you in the door, I urge you to come and see the play while you have a chance, as it goes only through Jan. 27.

Why should you come? Because it will change your life? Change your perspective? Give you a new lease on life? No. None of the above. You should come because it is just brilliant theater. It is an amazing two hours of storytelling performed by a wonderful actor who understands that self-loathing and suffering must be accompanied by a spellbinding and devilish smile.

The story told in two acts is in the tradition of so many great Irish writers. It simultaneously fascinates, frustrates, tires, entices and draws you in, even though, you know, it is way too fanciful to ever believe a word of it. Yet, from the opening, you are along for the ride.

“When I was a boy, I was afraid of the dark, what was there. And maybe one of the things I thought was there was vampires.”

As the story unfolds, we meet the aging, alcoholic theater critic and learn his acerbic cleverness is a distraction to hide his own lack of ideas, creativity and artistry. We listen as he grows in stature, size and cynicism. Yet, he is undone by a young actress whom he follows from Dublin to London, where the vampires come in. We live through love, longing, regret, hollow evil, and, along the way, you find yourself routing for rebirth, looking for hope. And does it come? You tell me.

But either way, you do get the chance to fall in love.

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