Rank: Theater Review
The gritty tale of two Dublin taxi drivers premieres at Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.
Taxi driver Carl Conway (Kevin Kearns) is deep in gambling debt to vice lord Jackie Farrell (Ron Bottitta). Jackie’s gift for gab barely masks his menace, and he’s sensitive to slights and in the grip of grudges, particularly toward another cabbie, George Kelly (David Schaal), Carl’s father-in-law, a former mate who righteously refused to join him in his rackets early on. With Carl’s life in jeopardy if he doesn’t pay up by midnight, George confronts an unyielding Jackie, who nevertheless is motivated to make them an offer of a way out, if only they would do a small job for him.
Rank solidly falls within a well-established tradition over which David Mamet and Quentin Tarantino loom large. It’s no longer much a novelty to hear gangsters and their victims wax eloquent in embroidered argot, although the Dublin lilt to the locutions boasts its own musical sound and locally mordant wit. The cast is uniformly strong and dexterous, and the tension coexists comfortably with the drollery of suppressed violence.
The first act is genuinely exemplary, with its roundabout buildups like a series of raised bets and bluffs of a consciously conducted game of interpersonal poker with power plays upping the stakes. It’s an engrossing and transporting entertainment that doesn’t manage to sustain the same level of flavorful dialogue and inventive situations after the break, when plot twists trump character development. It does remain a crackling yarn, though it resolves itself with twists that while believable enough are not plausibly conveyed in light of what we have seen of the characters throughout (they seem oblivious to some appalling indiscretion).
Playwright Robert Massey ultimately opts for sturdy genre pleasures over a theatrical vision or grand theme, although for much of the narrative it appears he has the makings and fixings to accomplish more. Wilson Milam’s direction makes the most of the verbal gymnastics and keeps the action moving pell-mell through the many turns of tone, fate and nerve.
Venue: Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (runs through May 12)
Cast: Ron Bottitta, Kevin Kearns, Jason Killalee, Karl Maschek, David Schaal
Director: Wilson Milam
Playwright: Robert Massey
Set and costume designer: Stephanie Kerley Schwartz
Lighting designer: Derrick McDaniel
Sound designer: Ernie Mondaca
Fight director: Joe Sofranko
Producer: Ron Sossi