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Prior to the coming of the pandemic, I traveled all over America to see and review regional theater productions. Thanks to the theatrical webcasts that I started covering in March, though, I’ve been discovering first-rate companies of whose existence I was previously unaware. That’s one of the many reasons why smart theater companies will make streaming video an integral part of their plans for the post-COVID future—it’s an indispensable way to spread the word more widely about what they’re doing.
Dallas’ Undermain Theatre, the latest of these discoveries, was founded in 1984 and now performs in a 90-seat theater of its own. While it’s highly thought of in Texas, I only just found out by chance that Bruce DuBose, the company’s producing artistic director, is starring in a webcast version of “St. Nicholas,” one of Conor McPherson’s monologues about unhappy people who live too close to the edge that separates the real from the unreal. Written in 1997, it has since become one of Mr. McPherson’s most admired monologues, and what Undermain is doing with it is thrilling. Not only is Mr. DuBose an outstanding performer, but the production as a whole is identical in quality to the superlative work being done online by New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre.
The premise of “St. Nicholas” is funny going in: The principal character is a self-hating, booze-swilling Dublin drama critic in his late fifties who falls in with a group of vampires. As if that weren’t enough, Mr. McPherson’s critic is jealous of the people he reviews because he longs in vain to write his own plays: “I had no ideas for a story….I could only write about what was there already. I was a hack.” This is, needless to say, an over-familiar piece of abuse flung at critics by those who resent them—but Mr. McPherson, being not a hack but one of our very greatest playwrights, turns it into a wholly believable tale of a troubled soul who has lost his way in the dark….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for St. Nicholas: