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LITTLE THING, BIG THING

Photos: Todd Davis


LITTLE THING, BIG THING was the culmination of a several months dream project. Seldom do you see/read/hear about a play, fall in love with it, and say, "I want to do this show, and I want to do it with these specific people."

That happened with CUDDLES, with Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts. And, to add a cherry on top of the cake, continued with LITTLE THING, BIG THING. I'd heard about this show about the same time I heard about CUDDLES. Following up, I learned the playwright, Donal O'Kelly, represented himself. Thus began a long, and very cordial email relationship – Mr. O'Kelly was very open to awarding us the rights, and continued with encouraging remarks and eventually, delight at our successful production.

And successful it was. Director Ellie Schwetye assembled a dream team to put the show together – starting with CUDDLES crack Stage Manager Kristin Rion. We had agreed that projections and live music would be great creative additions to this road trip of a script. So Michael Perkins weighed in with brilliant images – stills and footage of stops along the road of rural Ireland – and animated maps and shots of the streets and stops of the chase through Dublin. Jason Scroggins and Will Bonifiglio joined the team for live soundtrack music for the show, as well as evocative renditions of songs sung by the characters on the road.

Of course, none of this could have flew without the talent and commitment of my fellow cast member – Rachel Tibbetts. From the vampire she portrayed in CUDDLES, she shifted to an unpright Scottish nun (plus eagerly tackled the various Irish and Nigerian characters she would portray.) A glorious acting experience for me (like all the glorious stage experiences I've had with Ellie and Rachel.)

And all was presented on the immaculate soundstage of Avatar Studios. In my advertising life before the seeming full-time theatre life I'm living now, I had produced tv and radio at both Avatar and another spot just down the road from Avatar called Technisonic. The Tech folks allowed me to produce several Midnight shows on their soundstage. And a renovation and open house party at Avatar reacquainted me with that space and their people, and a few inquiries led to this show. The Avatar people welcomed us with open arms, their state-of-the-art equipment, and their technical skill in mounting the show.

On the infinite sweep of Avatar's stage, our little show seemed a lot bigger.

Audiences and critics agreed. Healthy crowds and solid reviews followed.

And here they are (along with a feature article.)


Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, Midnight Co. team up for 'Little Thing, Big Thing'
By Judith Newmark
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Midnight Company and the Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble have always had a lot in common.

Lately, it's mainly been artists.

Two small but solid troupes, Midnight and SATE have both been around since the late 1990s. That's long enough to have honed distinctive styles and to have developed loyal audiences.

Midnight is very much the creature of founder and artistic director Joe Hanrahan. A man who enjoys modern, edgy work, he specializes in plays that taste like whiskey and often stars in Midnight's solo shows. Rachel Tibbetts, SATE's artistic director, directed him in one of them, "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll."

Hanrahan, who performs with many St. Louis troupes, went on to appear in SATE's production of the plague drama "One Flea Spare" under the direction of SATE managing director Ellie Schwetye.

Rooted in a highly physical, subtly choreographic theatrical technique called Viewpoints, SATE has a feminist tilt, often presenting plays with strong female roles, many of them written by women. Its March production, "The Aphra Behn Emerging Artists Showcase," will feature short works from female writers and directors. That production is named for a 17th-century author who was one of the first English women to make her living by the pen.

But at the moment, the two companies stand midpoint in a joint effort.

Hanrahan directed SATE's November production of "Cuddles," English playwright Joseph Wilde's spooky fantasy about a tough-yet-tender business executive, Tabby (Schwetye), with a housebound teenage sister, Eve (Tibbetts). Eve is a vampire.

Now, the artists are changing roles. This time out, Schwetye directs Hanrahan and Tibbetts in Irish playwright Donal O'Kelly's cloak-and-dagger comedy "Little Thing, Big Thing." A Midnight Company production, it opens Friday.

Tibbetts plays Sister Martha, a nun in Nigeria who has been ordered to Ireland to manage the sale of an abandoned convent. Just before she leaves, a child presses a roll of film into her hand. The boy repeats his father's dying words: "Bring this to Henry Barr in Dublin. Trust no one."

Hanrahan plays Larry, an Irish ex-con whose gang has ordered him to steal a valuable statue of the Virgin Mary from the convent. But when Larry and Sister Martha arrive on the same night, they attract a lot of unwanted attention — some of it from powerful, dangerous forces, including a nefarious oil company.

In other words, Schwetye, Tibbets and Hanrahan have been working together, almost every day, for months.

That's just the way they like it.

It all started around a year ago. "As soon as I read a review of 'Cuddles,' before I even read the play, I thought, 'That's Rachel and Ellie, and I want to direct,'" Hanrahan says.

"But before we even scheduled it, I found this other script, by O'Kelly. It kind of evolved into a back-to-back effort."

"I love the rapid-fire pace of the story-telling," director Schwetye says of O'Kelly's play. "The play has only two main characters, but both actors play multiple roles (along with Sister Martha and Larry).

"I am amazed at how quickly they made it work. The relationship between the nun and the thief is really quite endearing. It's been a lot of fun."

In "Cuddles," Tibbetts played a character whose onstage actions were uncommonly ... intimate. (Bathroom functions were involved.) Even an experienced performer like Tibbetts considered that a challenge, but she felt "really lucky to work with people like Ellie and Joe — people I really trusted," she says. "I felt protective of Eve, and Ellie and Joe felt protective of Eve and of me."

"This combination (of artists) certainly offers shortcuts," Hanrahan says. "Our trust brings us together very quickly, and there is very little dissension. Our commitment to the work is equal."

Schwetye agrees with him. Without predicting a Midnight/SATE merger, she thinks these cooperative ventures bring out the best in both companies. "When you are friends with the other artists, that makes everything better," she says. "Equality is what's important; the relationships are what's important.

"Officially, we are not one company. But it's really nice to function together. We have synchrony."


St. Louis Eats and Drinks

Joe and Ann Pollack

Plan on a little extra time to get to Little Thing, Big Thing, the current offering from The Midnight Company. It's in a film studio near Jefferson and I-64, rather off the beaten path. This sort of thing drives some people crazy. Me, I like it. There's a certain Insider feel to locations like this, and if you've never been in such a place before, it's pretty interesting. Note, for example, how sound changes when you walk from the hallway into the actual studio, the result of serious insulation so things being filmed don't have intrusions from, say, sirens.

The Midnight Company often works at such venues. It's part of their overall style, and so is Little Thing, Big Thing. From the Irish author Donal O'Kelley, it's a two-person show. Joe Hanrahan and Rachel Tibbetts play several characters.

Mainly, though, they're Larry, recently out on parole, and Sister Martha, just back to Ireland from Nigeria to handle the sale of an old convent. The play is an eccentric caper story, with a script that has the characters mostly doing their own sound effects. That takes a little getting used to on the part of the audience, but it's rather fun seeing them casually announce "Cattle grate!", simultaneously bouncing three or four times as they drive along, for instance.

One of Sister Martha's students asked her to deliver a film cartridge to someone in Dublin while she's there – the student's dying father, owner of the film, made the request. Larry's purloining a statue of the Virgin from the convent. But the meet cute is interrupted by someone loudly demanding Martha give HIM the film instead, and the chase is on. Did I mention Nigerian oil and a fair amount of corruption? Did I need to?

Tibbetts' unflappable Sister Martha is very smooth, and fairly unshocked by her new associate's remarkably filthy mouth. Perhaps it's the circumstances. Hanrahan's abilities are perfect for Larry, scrambling and cursing and arguing. And, oh, yes, exhibiting his gluteii maximi to the sister. Those secondary characters are generally easy to identify despite only a few costume adjustments, like a blissful appearance by Hanrahan as a leprechaun. JC Kraijcek is responsible for the costumes.

Live music from Jason Scroggins and Will Bonfiglio adds to things. Dialogue is occasionally blurry, between accents, music, and speaking very quickly, but it's not unmanageable. Some wonderful video and lighting adds a lot, courtesy of Michael Perkins.

Ellie Schwetye directs this interesting little piece, which runs about 90 minutes without an intermission.


Set designs capture dramatic flavor in 2 theater productions in St. Louis

By Judith Newmark
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Because theater is a collaborative art that those of us in the audience enjoy as a whole, sometimes we have to remind ourselves of how many artists had to work together for our benefit. Actors, directors and playwrights are involved, of course; singers, dancers, musicians, composers and choreographers may play parts, too. And of course, there are designers.

Two plays that just opened here, "Intimate Apparel" at the New Jewish Theatre and "Little Thing, Big Thing" at the Midnight Company, could stand as case studies in importance of set design — a theatrical art of unlimited possibilities. Thanks to their concurrent productions, we can enjoy two drastically different approaches to design — each one just right for its particular drama.

Peter and Margery Spack designed the lavish set for "Intimate Apparel" so thoughtfully, it makes the Wool Studio Theatre into an intricate jewel box, cunningly divided into dainty spaces.

Written by Lynn Nottage, "Intimate Apparel" tells the story of a talented black seamstress, Esther (Jacqueline Thompson), making her living in New York in 1905. In a self-possessed performance directed by Gary Wayne Barker, Thompson gives us considerable insight into Esther: lonely but uncomplaining, quiet enough to move through many worlds with dignity.

It's not hard to imagine that Nottage could have composed "Intimate Apparel" as a collection of short stories, all built around Esther but connecting only by inference. The play, which has a top-notch cast, depends a lot on inference as well.

With a set that arcs across the stage, the Spacks make each sphere come to specific life. But they are hidden behind long curtains — the "intimate apparel" of a stage set. Lacy or ruched, draping or billowing, the drapery keeps us out until the actors admit us to the play's naked truth.

There's Esther's own room, where she sleeps and sews. In a boarding house run by a shrewd landlady (Linda Kennedy), this is where she will eventually admit her lonely-hearts pen pal, George (Chauncy Thomas). Esther's clients for exquisite undergarments — wealthy socialites like Mrs. Van Buren (Julie Layton) and flashy prostitutes like Mayme (Andrea Purnell) — welcome her to their boudoirs. But Esther seems happiest when she's in the fabric shop, examining lovely material with a gentle merchant, Mr. Marks (Jim Butz), an Eastern European Jew.

In "Fiddler on the Roof," Tevye observes that a bird and fish can fall in love, but where will they build a home? Esther and Mr. Marks are like that bird and fish. Fond as they may feel of each other, their time and place makes romance impossible. With their elaborate set, the Spacks reveal each place Esther goes as a self-contained world of its own. No wonder she feels lonely.

At Midnight, by contrast, "Little Thing, Big Thing" gets such a minimal production, it doesn't even have a set designer. At Avatar Studios, writer Donal O'Kelly's inky comedy plays out against a sweep of icy walls that curve into the floor. There are a couple of stools to sit on, a couple of low raised platforms.

That's not a set; it's barely a move-in. But over the actors' heads, projections by Michael B. Perkins give us clues — a Nigerian schoolhouse, an abandoned Irish convent, the busy streets of Dublin.

If Esther's world is small and segmented, the world of Sister Martha (Rachel Tibbetts) and Larry O'Donnell (Joe Hanrahan) sprawls across continents and social strata. She's a nun and he's a thief; she's rigid and he's careless; she's determined to keep her word and he's broken more promises than he can count.

But when they accidentally meet at the abandoned convent (which she is supposed to ready for sale and which he has come to rob), they turn into reluctant confederates who quickly learn to trust no one but each other.

A teacher in Nigeria, Sister Martha has been entrusted with a roll of film and instructions to give it to a certain man in Dublin. But she and Larry are on the run from the get-go, pursued by thuggish agents of a multinational oil company who don't care what happens to regular people — in Nigeria or in Ireland. Does our odd couple stand even a chance?

Under the direction of Ellie Schwetye, the cloak-and-dagger story moves swiftly. Both actors play smaller roles as well as the nun and Larry, and both bring aplomb to the many sound effects that O'Kelly demands (the creak of an ancient dumb waiter, the slowing chug of an engine as it runs out of gas, etc.).

Two musicians, Jason Scroggins and Will Bonfiglio, provide a Celtic backdrop that, like Perkins' projections, helps us keep our bearings without literally filling in the blanks. O'Kelly and Schwetye don't intend to give us too much. They want us to use our imaginations, the way Sister Martha and Larry must learn to do.

It's hard to imagine two plays that look or sound less alike than "Intimate Apparel" and "Little Thing, Big Thing." In a sense, they both tell bird-and-fish stories. But some birds can handle water, can't they? And some fish are said to fly.


BOOM/PLAYBACK

Theatre Review: Imitate the Action of the Salmon

Written by ANDREA BRAUN
Created: 30 January 2017

Sister Martha (Rachel Tibbetts) has a little secret, or maybe a big one. It all depends, you see, on what happens at the end of this Irish picaresque by Donal O'Kelly. Little Thing, Big Thing zips by in a quick 80 minutes or so without intermission until it ends with a bang, as Sister Martha and her partner in crime, Larry O'Donnell (Joe Hanrahan), attempt to carry out her potentially impossible mission. But she has accepted that mission, and Larry, at first reluctant to help her, becomes more involved with each step of the adventure.

The two are an unlikely pair from the get go. Larry is an ex-con whose story isn't quite what it seems on the surface. Sister Martha is far from a typical nun, her only nod to convention being her objection to Larry's constant use of the word "fuck" as adjective, verb, noun—he'd make it an adverb if he could. She is just back from doing charity work in Nigeria. While there, she meets a dying man. He gives her a roll of old-fashioned photography film, and charges her to place it directly into the hands of "Henry Barr," and with his last breath, he tells her, "trust no one."

The action begins with Larry asking a friend to take a photo of his backside. He has defaulted on his rent, and the property owner locked him out. There's a long story—well, of course there is; he's Irish—about shinnying up a drainpipe and a cat scratch on the arse that required medical attention. He's hoping photos with help him make a civil case and change his luck because life isn't going too well at the moment.

There is no scenery except a couple of platforms and chairs, so all the action is both pantomimed and described by the character performing it. Therefore, much depends on the fiddle and guitar background music (Will Bonfiglio and Jason Scroggins) and video projections on the back wall showing physical settings (Michael B. Perkins). The uncredited lighting design is also key, but the fact that director Ellie Schweyte is an award-winning lighting designer may be a clue to his/her identity (and following clues becomes a big thing in Dublin and its outskirts throughout the show).

Sister Martha is being chased for the object she carries, which she realizes on a visit to her old school and convent to prepare it for sale. She meets Larry coincidentally as he has been ordered by his associates to steal a statue of the Blessed Mother from that very convent. Watching Hanrahan describe this action is an acting lesson in itself. After a while, these descriptions, complete with verbal sound effects, become almost like background noise as the imagination takes over and carries the audience along with it. Tibbetts and Hanrahan also play all the secondary characters using only voices and movement to indicate a shift, and it's fun to watch them play scenes with themselves as they are forced by the powerful men who are after Sister Martha's film roll to go on the run together. Schwetye's direction is on the mark throughout because achieving this delicate balance is no doubt harder than it looks. It surely helps that these three are experienced at working together, as you'll see when you read the program.

As Sister Martha searches for Henry Barr, the two run into every obstacle imaginable. However, there is one moment that goes a long way to delineating these characters, and it's lovely. The two are by a river and the musicians kick into "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton" as they watch a salmon swim upstream to spawn. Sister is certain that he makes it, but Larry figures he got stuck halfway up the waterfall. At this point, she is the "glass half full" optimist and he's the "half empty" pessimist. Along the way, subtle personality shifts are indicated by the recurring motif of that salmon.

The play itself is ingenious and the acting is excellent even though it seemed to take Hanrahan a few moments to get the engine started on Saturday evening. After that, he was all in, but the dialects can be distracting. Hanrahan's Larry goes in and out of his Irish brogue and some of his characters sound British or American. Tibbetts' Martha is half-Scottish and grew up there, as indicated by the recurring strains of "Loch Lomond" more than her speech. It is a tricky dialect to be sure, and it's not as simple as saying "doon" and "oot" (down and out) with otherwise Irish inflections. When Tibbetts does portray Irishers, she has excellent diction. It's a little thing, but it can be a big thing if elocution bothers you. Still, I hope that won't keep you away from catching the production while you can.

For more information, contact MidnightCompany.Com, a co-producer with Slighly Askew Theatre Ensemble. Tickets can be purchased through BrownPaperTickets.com and performances take place at Avatar Studios through Feb. 11, 2017. Other credits go to Jennifer "JC" Krajicek for costumes; Pamela Reckamp, dialect coach; and Kristin Rion, stage manager.


LADUE NEWS

Midnight Company's 'Little Thing, Big Thing' Is a Ripping Good Yarn Told Just Right: Theater Review

by Mark Bretz
Feb 1, 2017

Story: Sister Martha, a missionary in Nigeria, is preparing to head back to Ireland to handle the sale of an abandoned convent. Before she leaves, a little boy timidly approaches and hands her a roll of film with an urgent request from his dying father: Sister Martha needs to deliver the roll to a man named Henry Barr in Dublin, and is to "trust no one" in the pursuit of this assignment.

At the convent, Sister Mary encounters a petty thief named Larry O'Donnell, who has been ordered by gang members to steal a statue of the Virgin Mary from the decrepit convent building. When other men arrive and start shooting at them both, Sister Martha and Larry form an unlikely alliance to deliver the mysterious film to the stranger named Henry Barr. That becomes their mutual and dangerous task, if they can stay alive long enough to accomplish it.

Highlights: An easy chemistry between performers Joe Hanrahan and Rachel Tibbetts makes this nifty thriller written by playwright Donal O'Kelly an entertaining and engaging adventure in Midnight Company's current presentation at midtown's Avatar Studios venue.

Other Info: Playwright O'Kelly's one-act, 75-minute story has previously enjoyed successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Australia Fringe, Off-Broadway, in Canada and in Washington, D.C. It's a caper with heavy doses of wry comedy sprinkled along the way in the friendly if sometimes combative banter between the two main characters.

O'Kelly keeps the budget lean by having just a pair of actors portray not just the two primary roles but a smattering of small parts as well. With the accomplished guidance of director Ellie Schwetye, both Midnight's artistic director Hanrahan and Tibbetts savvily convey a number of juicy little roles that enhance this well-constructed and always enlivening tale.

Both performers obviously listened to the advice of dialect coach Pamela Reckamp, with Tibbetts sporting a Scottish brogue aligned with her character's half-Scottish ancestry and Hanrahan consistently doing a verbal Irish jig as the "good thief" Larry (apologies to St. Dismas, to be sure).

The spartan set is dominated by a clever video design courtesy of Michael Perkins that sets various scenes with country roads, maps and a whirlwind adventure across Dublin to bars, newspapers and parks, et al. Jennifer "JC" Krajicek's costumes range from the full uniform of an old-style Ursuline nun to some amusing get-ups adorning Sister Mary and Larry when they venture out in disguise, and Perkins' lighting shrewdly underscores key moments.

Jason Scroggins and Will Bonfiglio provide a jaunty and occasionally serious musical background, playing traditional tunes such as Loch Loman on guitar and fiddle, respectively, that Larry and Sister Mary sing with indifferent success, which makes it all the more charming. These two appealing characters are bonding on their unexpected road trip and learning much about each other and themselves in the process.

Both Tibbetts and Hanrahan glibly and craftily make their way through O'Kelly's entertaining script, which isn't the most original but does have more than its share of good lines and amusing situations. Schwetye's pacing is smooth and brisk, simpatico with the breezy style utilized by both players in mining the story's abundance of humor even in their characters' direst predicaments.

Perkins makes a disarming cameo appearance on screen that proves telling as our pair of intrepid heroes take on gangsters and greedy corporate heavies from two disparate but equally dangerous locales in their quest to reach Henry.

Little Thing, Big Thing doesn't attempt to be profound and that's why it succeeds as much as it does. It's a ripping good yarn told just right, one that will leave you in a light-hearted mood after the performance as you head toward the local pub for a pint or two to discuss.


STAGE DOOR
Road Trip! "Little Thing big thing"At The Midnight Company Pits Nun Vs. Thief

Steve Allen

Larry O'Donell is a thief. This time he's after a valuable statue of the Virgin Mary that's housed in a chapel in Ireland that is being torn down. Sister Martha is a nun who is sent to close down that chapel. When she realizes someone is after her- or rather after a roll of film she is to deliver to someone in Dublin- a wild and reckless road trip through Ireland ensues and this unlikely pair bicker and bond until the sobering finale.

Donal O'Kelly has crafted this bizarre story and, once you get used to his insistence on the actors mouthing sound effects and, of course, the Irish and Scottish brogues, "Little Thing big thing" settles into a delightful if hazardous romp. Joe Hanrahan, Artistic Director of The Midnight Company, is a brazen, profane thief who makes no excuses for his behavior and lifestyle. A great role for the talented Mr. Hanrahan as his brash portrayal is perfect for this likable bad guy.

Rachel Tibbetts, founder of Slightly Askew Theatre Company (SATE), is the prim but, as it turns out, far from proper Sister Martha. Objecting to Larry's Mamet-like mouth, she soon falls into the rhythm- if not the spirit- of his charming style and soon becomes quite thrilled with this new adventure of eluding whoever is after her (them) and the rather rough ride of his rickety old car as they bounce through the countryside. A delightful performance that sparkles with wit and a bit of wild abandon as both she and Joe Hanrahan tackle multiple roles along the way. Mr. Hanrahan recently directed Ms Tibbetts and Ellie Schwetye in a dark production of "Cuddles" at SATE and now both of the ladies are involved in The Midnight Company production. A wonderful collaboration that I hope continues.

Along with the on stage duo, off to the side is the duo of Jason Scroggins on guitar and Will Bonfiglio on "fiddle." Accompanying with everything from appropriate Irish tunes to a tongue-in-cheek "Bonnie and Clyde," they fill out the story beautifully. Will has another commitment so he will be replaced by Amy Greenhalgh during the rest of the run.

Ellie Schwetye directs "Little Thing big thing" and keeps the pace moving at breakneck speed in this 90 minute one-act. They are aided by the Michael B. Perkins video design which features location photos as well as a running video of their road trip including maps as they search for their final destination. With the basic background of a television studio where they are performing, the lighting design, the musicians, a few platforms, some props and the running video make it seem bigger than it is. A shout out to Pamela Reckamp as well working as the dialect coach and the costumes of Jennifer "JC" Krajicek.

The Midnight Company always provides some of the most unusual theatre in our town. "Little Thing big thing" is no exception as, once you settle into the occasional sound effects coming from the actors and the accents, it is a marvelous evening of adventure and (mostly) comedy.

Don't miss out on this entertaining road trip as "Little Thing big thing" runs through February 11th. Contact The Midnight Company at midnight company.com for tickets or more information.


KDHX
'Little Thing, Big Thing,' or an incredible series of coincidences, both comic and tragic

Written by Tina Farmer
Category: Theatre Reviews
Published: 03 February 2017

Sister Martha has been called back to her church in Ireland from Nigeria to assist with the transfer of the closed property to a new owner. Larry O'Donnell, a small time thief with a drinking habit, has broken in to the sanctuary and stolen a valuable statue of Mary. So starts Little Thing, Big Thing, a rousing good creative collaboration between The Midnight Company and Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble.

Larry's loaded the statue into his van and presumably comes back into the building to see if there's anything else worth stealing. Martha, who is secretly carrying a roll of film she's been asked to deliver to a Nigerian friend currently in Dublin, has just received a frightening call when she and Larry cross paths. The phone rings again and the two are forced to rely on instinct and reaction. It appears many people want the film Sister Martha is hiding, and some of those people are currently tracking her with the aim of securing the film at any cost.

Larry and Martha hightail it away from the church while being chased by men with less than honorable intentions. And guns. The two-person show moves quickly, with all the hallmarks of an action-filled buddy comedy, including the laughs, but an ending that's ever after without much happy. The year is not clearly defined in the show, the musical score and Larry reference the Talking Heads circa 1985, Martha finds a Pussy Riot t-shirt in a secondhand store, still the situation feels alarmingly real and relevant.

The intriguing script, by Donal O'Kelly, is witty and fresh, if predictably familiar. Little Thing, Big Thing has the intrigue of a blockbuster spy movie, but in much cruder, often laugh out loud funny, circumstances. Instead of a new angle, we get global realism, awkward intimacy, and a simple message of hope. There's a multitude of interesting minor characters, although the introduction of the first one may catch you off guard. The sparse set enhances the less glamorous reality of Martha and Larry's circumstances.

In the play, smartly helmed by director Ellie Schwetye and complemented with live music by Jason Scroggins and Will Bonfiglio as Rachel Tibbetts and Joe Hanrahan expertly move between their primary roles and the minor characters. Though there's that moment's confusion at the first transition, the two create various characters without ever losing a grasp on the principle players, Martha and Larry.

Tibbetts is earnest but steely as Sister Martha, with a warm, expressive laugh that changes her entire demeanor. She has more street smarts than she first reveals, with the posture and resolve of a seasoned woman of the cloth. Hanrahan's Larry O'Donnell is an honorable opportunist, at least to his way of thinking. He's also painfully hung over, fast and easy with the truth, and instinctively kindhearted. They need each other for different reasons, and their unaffected humor and easy chemistry creates sympathy that benefits the story.

Schwetye directs Little Thing, Big Thing with purpose and an ear to storytelling. She creates distinct areas, measured transitions, and pointed focus to provide just enough information for the audience to move with the actors. Schwetye astutely paces the show to provide moments for the audience to prepare for the next scene without losing necessary tension. A skilled support team assists the director and includes dialect coach Pamela Reckamp, who guides the actors through myriad accents, and costumer Jennifer "JC" Krajicek, who provides smart, practical designs.

The space is striking, with curved edges, all painted white, that blur the transition from floor to walls to ceiling and a minimalist set. The video design by Michael Perkins shifts with each significant moment and scene via projections ranging from travelogue images to street maps to moody atmosphere. I only wish they were larger and projected directly to the wall. When complemented by the live accompaniment, the effect is enveloping, and the story captivates, inviting as much thought as laughter.

At its heart, Little Thing, Big Thing, The Midnight Company's production in collaboration with Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble running through February 11, 2017, is about a leap of faith. Martha and Larry recognize and take necessary, if dangerous, chances once both make a commitment to do the right thing. The story is more gritty realism than escapist fun, however, and the things don't turn out as expected. Still, the ending gives one hope that the proverb is true: even the smallest pebble can have a big ripple effect.


Snoop's Theatre Thoughts
Little Thing, Big Thing

by Donal O'Kelly
Directed by Ellie Schwetye
Midnight Company
February 3, 2017

Joe Hanrahan's Midnight Company has proved to be an ideal showcase for one-man shows over the years, highlighting Hanrahan's talent and versatility in playing a variety of characters in one work. With Midnight's newest production, however, Hanrahan has a co-star, the equally talented and versatile Rachel Tibbetts. This quirky, fast-paced, intelligently staged one-act comedy-drama proves to be an excellent vehicle for both of its lead performers and for its two supporting musicians.

Little Thing, Big Thing isn't a long play, and in a way it lives up to its name. It's a "little" play with some big ideas, allowing both of its stars to play a variety of roles, although each has one principal role. It's something of a mystery thriller, dark comedy, buddy road-trip story featuring small-time thief Larry O'Donnell (Hanrahan), who in the process of trying to pull off one last heist finds himself in the company of Scottish nun Sister Martha (Tibbetts), who has just returned from spending years on a mission to Nigeria, and who has an urgent new mission of her own, bringing her and Larry into confrontation with shady gangsters, corrupt government officials, and more. It's an extremely fast-moving show with a lot of story going on and a lot of character development as Larry and Martha meet various benevolent and not-so-benevolent characters along the way as the story unfolds and intrigue increases, leading to a surprising conclusion, in more ways than one.

The show is simply staged in a vast studio space at Avatar Studios near Downtown. Director Ellie Schwetye has assembled a great cast and crew, with excellent atmospheric contributions from musicians Jason Scroggins and Will Bonfiglio, playing a variety of folk tunes and other songs to complement the story, with Michael B. Perkins' excellent video contributing to the experience as well. Jennifer "JC" Krajicek as provided the costumes, which suit the characters well, especially Tibbetts, who has some fun costume changes.

A show like this depends largely on the strength of its two leads, and Hanrahan and Tibbetts make the most of all of their roles. Tibbetts brings a lot of fire and determination to Martha, and she and Hanrahan have a believable, sometimes friendly, sometimes combative chemistry. Hanrahan brings a lot of flustered, foul-mouthed charm to the role of the hapless Larry, making his initially unwilling road trip with Martha intriguing, sometimes funny, and sometimes emotionally intense. Both performers play a variety of other characters as needed, and they play them well, although Larry and Martha are the main focus. Tibbett's Glasgow accent isn't exactly accurate, but it's consistent and contributes to the quirkiness of her character, as well.

Little Thing, Big Thing is a dynamic, sometimes extremely funny, sometimes challenging work that is driven by the winning performances of its two stars. It's a timely play, with political and social messages conveyed in a jarringly effective manner. It's a little play with big characters and big performances, and that's a good thing.

The Midnight Company's production of Little Thing, Big Thing is running at Avatar Studios until February 11, 2016.

 

 

 


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