Literary intrigue

Graham Greene's the Third Man

Adapted by James Brunt
Directed by Joe Tantalo
Godlight Theatre Company
Manhattan Theatre Source
177 MacDougal St. (212/501-4751)
Equity showcase (closes May 24)
Review by Elias Stimac

Adapting Graham Greene's 1949 novel The Third Man to the stage is an ambitious task, and Godlight Theatre Company surely delivers with talented contributors. The acting was solid, the direction was impressive, the technical elements were unique. However, this story of a dead man's secrets being uncovered never grabbed the viewers as intensely as the production elements.

Rollo Martins (Greg Konow), a pulp-Western novelist, finds himself in post-war Vienna. A friend of his, Harry Lime, has passed away... or has he? The fact that actor Jason MacDonald was listed in the program as playing Lime decreased the suspense from the get-go. But Martins's path to re-uniting with Lime is blocked by deceptive doctors, strong-willed ex-lovers, dangerous detractors, and other colorful characters all trying to throw the would-be detective off the scent. When Martins finally discovers Lime's true motives, the deceased steps out of the shadows one night and gives Martins a new purpose for seeking him out.

James Brunt brings plenty of action, adventure, chase scenes, and conflict to his stage adaptation of the novel, and yet the climax feels like a spy film with a few key suspense sequences missing. He also uses a narrator, a Scotland Yard man by the name of Calloway (Josh Renfree), who offers keen-eyed descriptions and details of Martins's search. Brunt may rely a little too much on this device, which often pulled the viewers' attention away from the action.

Director Tantalo did succeed in keeping the transitions moving smoothly, setting the performers constantly in motion, and briskly pacing the narration. The cemetery scenes and comic confrontations were staged especially well.

The exciting lighting scheme of consultant Jason Rainone and Maruti Evan's formidable production design combine to provide a metal-grating playground filled with shafts of elusive light on which the players talk to and stalk each other. The only drawback to the shadowy effects was that supporting characters were hard to tell apart at times. Also a detriment to the production were the close-range gunshots, which were way too loud for the intimate space. Ken Hypes fared better with his competent but underused sound design.

Also on the positive side, Tantalo assembled an intriguing cast of actors, led by sturdy Renfree, brooding Martins, and slick MacDonald. Vanessa Liguori portrayed an emotional former lover of Lime's, and Ryan Harrington garnered big laughs as an eccentric hotel manager Martins encounters. In addition, the convincing ensemble included John Porto, Brian Bianco, David MacNiven, Kenneth King, and Daniel Ball.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2003 Elias Stimac