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The Vandal

  • Theater
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Steep Theatre Company. By Hamish Linklater. Directed by Shade Murray. With Kendra Thulin, Jack Miggins, Alex Gillmor. Running time: 1hr 20mins; no intermission.

Theater review by Kris Vire

A teenage boy (Jack Miggins) approaches a lone woman (Kendra Thulin) at a bus stop on a chilly evening in upstate New York. Though the woman clearly wants to be left alone, the boy small-talks her into submission, riffing on the proximity of the nearby hospital and cemetery and rattling off elaborate, improbable tales that all seem to involve life and death: His own mother, he says, died before he was born, before launching into a shaggy-dog story about a student at his school who committed suicide after news broke that he'd gotten his French teacher pregnant.

The kid's persistent moxie proves impossible to resist, for us (Miggins gives a deftly charming performance) and for the woman, whose lips seem to curl into an involuntarily smirk as he regales her. Soon enough she's let herself be cajoled into buying him beer at the nearby liquor store; her encounter with the surly shopkeeper (Alex Gillmor) gives us new information about her own back story as well as the boy's.

To say too much more would do a disservice to Hamish Linklater's narrative, elegantly structured to reveal itself piece by piece before unveiling an unexpected twist. Suffice to say the boy, amid all his grandiose philosophizing about Cool Ranch Doritos "flavor dust," has something real to say about the agreed-upon fictions and lies we tell ourselves to get through the day. Shade Murray's clean, spare staging gives his three excellent actors (Gillmor and Miggins as father and son is a terrific bit of casting) an expansive slate on which to leave their emotional mark.


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