Organized crime meets a quartet of disorganized would-be criminals to wild and wacky effect in Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Den Of Thieves, now getting a hilarious 20th-anniversary revival by 2Cents Theatre Group.
An emergency call from Kleptomaniacs Anonymous newbie Maggie (Alison Quinn) to her sponsor Paul (Frank Gallegos) reveals a diehard shoplifter unable to go more than two weeks without pocketing purseful of stolen goods including Yodels, toothpaste, room freshener, and an old lady’s change purse, and if Maggie finds it hard to give up a life of minor crime, she finds it no easier to maintain her resolve to never again take up with her ex, gangsta wannabe Flaco (Kevin Herrmann).
Maggie has only just apologized to Paul for having swiped his wallet as well … and for spending its $800 … and for having made him think she was flirting when she brushed up against him in the elevator, when who should show up at her dingy flat but a gun-toting Flaco, who’s arrived heist scheme in mind … if only he can come up with a safecracker pronto.
Serendipitously for Flaco, Paul has a history of crackerjack safecracking. (He once broke into a White Castle and came away with “eighty-nine bucks and a couple hundred burgers.”)
Unfortunately for Maggie’s ex, Paul has sworn off crime (along with alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, debts, meat, sugar, dairy, and wheat), that is until Flaco reveals how much cash there is to pilfer ($750,000!) and how foolproof his plan is. (The disco they’ll be stealing from is an independent operation, “no mafia, no cops, no gangs, no no-one.”)
And so, unable to resist the lure of three-quarters of a mill in easy cash, Paul, Maggie, Flaco, and Flaco’s new girlfriend, curvaceous, English language-mauling Latina stripper Boochie (Paulina Gamiz), set off to get themselves some easy money.
“Only a bunch of stupid, fucking idiots could mess things up,” proclaims Flaco as lights go out for intermission.
Cut to four idiots tied to chairs and a couple of very angry Mafiosi primed to shoot and kill all four of them, that is until young mob scion Louie “The Little Tuna” Pescatore (Chris Lanehart) finds himself somehow touched by their 12-Step Program-inspired apologies and decides over the protests of his bloodthirstly henchman Sal (Eric Geller) to settle for “one body and three thumbs.”
Now it’s up to Paul, Maggie, Flaco, and Boochie to decide just who gives up what.
Den Of Thieves may come as a surprise to those familiar only with recent Pulitzer Prize winner Guirgis in dramatic mode (In Arabia We’d All Be Kings, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot) though not to those who couldn’t stop laughing throughout his 2011 hit The Motherfucker With the Hat.
Over-the-top these characters may be, but they’re all grounded in humanity, and the more we get to know them, the realer they become, the more we care about them, and the more we wonder if and how Guirgis will find a way to save one life and three digits.
Under Eric Augusztiny’s assured direction, a septet of terrific actors, including Cris D’Annunzio as mob boss Al “The Big Tuna” Pesacotore, so completely vanish into their colorful roles that you may find yourself sticking around after the show for proof that they aren’t the characters they play. (I did, and they aren’t.)
D’Annunzio, Gallegos, Gamiz, Geller, Herrmann, Lanehart, and Quinn won me over each and every one, though I must confess particular admiration and affection for Herrmann’s irrepressable Flaco. (Gallegos’s and Herrmann’s ineffectual attempts to fight while tied to chairs six feet apart merit special mention too.)
Scenic designer Nicholas Acciani deserves applause for ingeniously hiding Act Two’s swanky wood-paneled den behind Act One’s grimy painted walls, with Andrew Dunn’s lighting, Jessica J’aime’s costumes, and Kristen Boulé’s sound design adding up to a topnotch intimate production design.
Steve Pope is stage manager and Juan Lozano is technical director. Den Of Thieves is produced by Boulé (who also cast the production) and Roxanna Kaye.
Den Of Thieves delivers so many laughs, it could just as easily have been titled Barrel Of Monkeys, though simians would probably be too smart to get themselves into the pickle these humans do.
January 15, 2106
Photos: Daniel J. Sliwa Photography