Monday, October 13, 2008

The Atheist


By Ronan Noone, Directed by Justin Waldman. The Culture Project at Barrow Street Theaetre. (CLOSED)

(Critic-O-Metered by Isaac Butler)

Critics are mostly positive about Ronan Noone's one-man take on the rise and fall of a morally bankrupt journalist. But a few critics were turned off by Noone's play, despite praise of Campbell Scott's performance.

(Barbara & Scott Siegel) If you see a better performance on a stage in New York City this year, it will have to surpass the extraordinary work by Campbell Scott in the one-person play The Atheist...His performance is so astounding that even if you couldn't hear the bright and brittle words written by talented playwright Ronan Noone, and all you had to go by was the actor's face, you'd still know exactly what emotions were cascading down from the stage to the audience.

Variety A-
(Sam Theilman) It's a pity the title The Misanthrope is taken...[Ronan] Noone's creepily compelling portrait of an avaricious journalist...gets better and better as it rockets along, especially with Campbell Scott to give the title character a well-placed jolt or two. As Augustine Early, a newspaper reporter swallowed whole by ambition, Scott has enough hypnotic charisma for about five actors, keeping the aud enthralled by Early's smooth-voiced, friendly facade and occasionally letting his barely controlled rage smash it to bits.

New Jersey Star-Ledger B+
(Michael Sommers) Brightly written by Ronan Noone in a jazzy flow of words that turns jagged as the self-destructive hero's fortunes darken, The Atheist is an often funny account of blind ambition thriving in an easily corruptible society. The fast-paced monologue recalls in its comic tone and bad-boy appeal some early plays by Conor McPherson such as The Good Thief.

(Michael Kuchwara) By all rights, he should be the kind of guy you would hate to spend time with, but in The Atheist, Ronan Noone's engrossing solo play, he exerts a kind of scorpion-like charm. Much of that charm is due to the witty, compelling performance of Campbell Scott, whose sly smile hides, at least for a while, the sting of Early's dangerous

Back Stage B-
(Karl Levett) Noone strives to make Augustine a villain so sexily hip he's endowed with everything that's wrong with the world today. As a result, the character lacks credibility. He often seems so bleakly and blatantly amoral, he's too bad to be true...[Scott] delivers a detailed, concentrated performance almost poetic in its energy and anger...But all of Scott's talent can't disguise the flaws in Noone's text.

NYPost: B-
(Frank Scheck) And while "The Atheist" isn't intended to be realistic, its sole character doesn't have enough psychological depth to overcome the play's contrivances. Thanks to Scott's performance, however, the evening is still engrossing.

New York TimesC
(Charles Isherwood) Were it not for the energizing contrast between Mr. Scott's altar-boyish good looks and the corroded soul of the character he portrays, the play would probably be D.O.A. As it is, the twinkle in Mr. Scott's eyes gets a major workout. Impressively, his baby blues can twinkle in several different modes, suggesting blushing innocence, snaky seductiveness or steel-tipped anger.

Time Out NY D
(Rob Weinert-Kendt) We're hardly surprised that in Ronan Noone's contrived, coarse monodrama, coolly directed by Justin Waldman, Scott methodically sets about to subvert his fulsomely all-American charisma. What is surprising—and deeply disappointing—is just how methodical, even clinical this reversal of our expectations proves to be; it's like witnessing charm-removal surgery.

New Yorker B
What makes it almost worth sitting through Early’s ably written yet less than meaningful ramblings—about his job as an unethical reporter, a girlfriend who likes gymnastic bathroom sex, and a Peeping Tom congressman with a pile of homemade porn and an attractive, virgin wife—is the chance to see Scott, an accomplished actor working wholeheartedly to hold up his end of the deal.

TheaterMania A 13; Variety A- 12; AP B+ 11; Star-Ledger B+ 11; New Yorker B 10; Back Stage B- 9; NYPost B- 9; New York Times C 7; Time Out D 4; Total: 86/9 = 9.56 = B

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