by Anthony Chase
St. Nicholas, the one-man play by Conor McPherson, directed by Scott Behrend, currently starring Vincent O’Neill at Road Less Traveled Theatre, is without doubt the finest theatrical production I have ever seen. My life was changed by this experience, and I was delighted to invite the entire Road Less Traveled company back to my country home for a candlelight garden party on the night of the opening. We had such an enthrallingly fun time, that I doubt any of them remembers a thing…
Yes, I’m joking!
St. Nicholas is about a drunken and embittered hack drama critic who becomes infatuated with an actress in a Dublin production of Salome. After submitting an ill-considered mixed review, he attends the opening night party and lies to the director, assuring him that the production was the best he’s ever seen, and that his life has been changed by the experience. This critic follows the production to London. There, he is recruited by a house of vampires, and abandons his family to work for them. His job is to lure unsuspecting nightclub patrons back to the vampire dwelling where they enjoy intoxicated bacchanalia. The unsuspecting victims have their blood sucked and depart, not remembering a thing.
Imagine my horror when Mr. O’Neil made his first entrance wearing a double-collared, taupe green trench coat with a lining, identical to one I frequently wear. O’Neill assured me it was a coincidence, but let this serve as warning that costume designer Maura Simmonds-Price is now on my radar…
Joking again! Ah, what a merry mood this has put me in!
The point of this production of St. Nicholas is, certainly, to showcase the formidable storytelling talents of Vincent O’Neil, and to allow Buffalo audiences to see yet another play from the author of The Weir, Shining City, and The Seafarer.
O’Neill imbues this nameless critic with all the charm of Addison DeWitt and all the charisma of Count Dracula—the Frank Langella version, not Bela Lugosi. This is a man who was clearly a theatrical vampire, parasitic upon the art he describes, long before he ever met William, the real-life vampire who recruited him into service.
The tales we hear tell how one person feeds on another and how pain is part of the joy of life. We spend an engaging evening with O’Neill, on a stark set by David Butler, most effective when it is most minimal, and most hauntingly lit by John Rickus, with sound by Katie Menke. O’Neill casts a dashing figure in marvelously stylish clothes selected by Simmonds-Price. (I must ask here where I can buy a scarf like that.)
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