Machinations, humor, and intrigue are the tidal currents of Fishamble: The New Play Company’s Little Thing, Big Thing by Donal O’Kelly, directed by Jim Culleton, currently at 59E59 Theaters. A nun (a fine job by Sorcha Fox), who has just returned from Nigeria and an ex-con (the mugging Donal O’Kelly), who has just gotten out of prison, are thrown together by an unusual series of events which lead them on a wild misadventure across Ireland into the heart of Dublin. How they escape a killer and other henchmen in the employ of a corrupt businessman becomes the arc of an all too plausible story. It is a tale which ends with a riveting conclusion; it reminds us that news sound bytes are far from the real truth and not even the tip of the iceberg underneath the skewed misrepresentation of whitewashed media reports.
One of the themes of O’Kelly’s play is that little things are wrapped up in big things and the microcosm reflects the macrocosm in relationships that only the perceptive can divine and capitalize on. In the process individuals who the universe “brings together” may collaborate in a unity of purpose for the good. With their own anointed synergy they have the power to discover truths which must be told through alternative means; they must not be related through typical mainstream channels because those channels have been compromised by corruption or incompetence.
O’Kelly’s plot unfolds through a combination of narrative effects and actions by the two main characters. Sorcha Fox and Donal O’Kelly assume the voices and physical attributes of other individuals that Martha (the nun) and Larry (the ex-con), encounter along their crazy journey. In addition to the main characters Martha and Larry, Sorcha Fox and Donal O’Kelly effect the various characterizations using a minimum of props with a maximum of gestures, sounds, and voice changes.
Though in the beginning this takes getting used to, the actors are creditable. As they take on different parts (enemies and ancillaries), the convoluted story unfolds. Like all intricate life events, nothing is simple, nothing is easily discerned. But gradually, we understand the importance of the “little thing.” It is a role of film whose photos represent “the big thing.” The “big thing” involves a conspiracy of corruption and the murder of innocents who have attempted to take a stand against environmental destruction and its resultant effects on a population who is powerless to stop it.
The action involves figuring out what is going on in the larger picture through the smaller, apparently insignificant details which later reveal their importance. O’Kelly has cleverly posited that only the unlikely characters of Larry, this particular ex-con, and Martha, this individualistic nun, are capable of setting the record straight. To do this they must circumvent capture and violence along the most ingenious of routes picking up erst-while clues creating a domino effect along the way. Part of our engagement involves deciphering clues with Larry and Martha to intuit which individuals falsely present themselves as friends but who are their actual enemies; this is at times an intriguing and fun task because Fox and O’Kelly change their essences and even genders to portray these other characters who are trying to confront, help or harm Martha and Larry.
By the play’s conclusion and after the shocking events that occur just prior to it, O’Kelly’s message sounds loud and clear. We note how global competition dictates that the little people may be trod over by corporate, profit-mongering sensibilities whose compromised morality and ethics allow them to contravene laws, cover-up their tracks, and misrepresent their true intentions. In concert with mainstream media’s proclivity to twist the facts and obfuscate the truth to the point of fabrication (whether through collusion, negligence, or incompetence), the assumption is that powerful, corrupt forces “walk between the raindrops” and with impunity, “do as they please,” as those who would hold them accountable are eliminated.
However, O’Kelly reveals that this is not always the case. There are those who have the evidence to unravel the entire “house of cards.” Ending on a positive note, O’Kelly suggests that the paradigm is shifting and that people do see and understand beyond what is reported on an adulterated and self-congratulatory mainstream media in denial. O’Kelly shores this up during the play with Martha’s and Larry’s sometimes poetic exchanges and with their urgency and sacrifice to get the role of film into the right hands.
Also, there is profound symbolism at the meaningful conclusion. O’Kelly puts the needed evidence (the little/big thing), in the hands of an iconic and meek character. This is the final coup de grace that has the potential to upend the nefarious forces that intend to exert their power and remain “above the law.” With this symbolic character and the deep irony it signals, O’Kelly affirms that truth may eventually prevail. The cultural bleakness and violence fomented by the malevolence of corporate greed may be overthrown.
The subject and story are current and trending. O’Kelly’s convoluted plot complications are ironed out by the denouement to serve the dynamic and powerful revelations of theme. This might make a fine film; the action-filled scenario gives itself easily to rapid-fire cuts of film’s visual medium. As a play version it is less dynamic and somewhat static. This especially relates to the staging of the actors, though they take on a multiplicity of roles and express the interior monologues of Martha and Larry well. Though the actors present an admirable effort, some of their gestures are overpowering and the sounds to represent footsteps, etc., are less than inspiring. I kept wondering whether there might have been another way to narrate/convey the actions of the other characters (played by Fox and O’Kelly).
Overall, the production is a worthy one and highly entertaining with a devastating and memorable ending. The content, themes, and acting do not disappoint. Little Thing, Big Thing will be at 59E59 theaters until September 27th and is part of the Origin’s 1st Irish Festival 2015. Origin’s 1st Irish Festival 2015 is offering productions at various venues around New York City. It is running the entire month of September.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0073514225]