by Ed Malin · February 1, 2014
Playwrights on New Plays #37 Ed Malin shares his thoughts on Theft
A house burglary seems the least likely time to make a new friend. Well, that's what's so intriguing about Ethan Itzkow's new play, Theft.
Rich (Michael Bordwell) is trying to get some computer work done in his in lived-in but cluttered and unloved apartment. We later find out that he is married but his wife has fled from him and his self-proclaimed selfishness. Enter Max (James Harris, Jr.), through the window. Max has come to steal Rich's prized laptop and anything else of value, right down to the sentimental portraits of dogs sketched by the estranged wife. Rich manages to persuade Max that, after the data on the laptop gets backed up, he won't mind parting with it. And so in the meantime the men talk of many things, even sharing Rich's last bowl of cannabis while they both, clasping knives, decide if they can trust or at least stop cursing at each other. But what lies ahead in Max's life that drives him to such ungentlemanly behavior? And who keeps calling him while he's "working"?
This play had a lot of surprises. Certainly it thrives on the unexpected, such as both men's fondness for Chuck Palahniuk novels. The question of who is good, bad, selfish, loving, etc., comes up a lot. Rich, who has lost his leading lady and shut himself up in a remote apartment to do his work (as he notes, the only thing he really has left) gets a bizarre opportunity to interface with humanity again. I think it was interesting to watch, and prompts the audience to think about actions and consequences.
Michael Bordwell gives a great performance as Rich, a character who shatters the first impression that he is unable to hold off an intruder for an hour. His subterfuges are enacted with a nice mixture of nervousness and calm. James Harris, Jr. as Max certainly starts out gruff, but he has a complex life and, for better or worse, has much in common with Rich. Under Alan Hasnas's direction, these characters get the chance to go beyond the drab routines into which they had fallen. Fight Choreographer Kevin M. Little deserves a lot of credit for the many kinds of violence you will see in this production. Ken Coughlin's set is a triumph of disarray which adds challenges to the stubble in the play. You will probably want to go home and clean your room afterwards.