The DC premiere of Donal O’Kelly’s Little Thing, Big Thing, playing now at Solas Nua performing at Flashpoint Mead Theatre Gallery, is an impressively entertaining dark Irish comedy. A cast of two (the hilarious Sasha Olinick and the divine Nanna Ingvarsson, respectively) portray a dozen characters each during the course of this crackerjack crime thriller. Olinick and Ingvarsson’s
spotless delivery, combined with O’Kelly’s funny and surprisingly heartwarming script, make for a show that delivers plenty of belly laughs, much needed in DC right now.
Director (And Solas Nua Artistic Director) Rex Daugherty continues his string of well oiled productions that are quickly making Solas Nua a formidable presence in the midsize DC theatre scene. Dedicated solely to “contemporary Irish arts”, including literature and film as well as theatre, Solas Nua is providing a valuable service by introducing the hottest new Irish plays to this side of the Atlantic.
In this case, the work is a twisty, fast paced neo-noir. Sister Martha (Nanna Ingvarsson) is an Irish nun who has just returned from Nigeria carrying a damning film canister. Larry (Sasha Olinick) is a bumbling thief who happens to be robbing the convent at the same time that military thugs are accosting Martha in an attempt to seize the film evidence against them. So, Larry and Martha end up as strange bedfellows fleeing together. At first, their partnership is purely practical, but as their journey continues they both come to see a deeper significance to their quest for – the little thing becomes a big thing, which is to say the state of their souls.
Ingvarsson and Olinick are superb at differentiating their multiple roles, each of which spans gender, age, and body type. As their main characters, the two have sparkling chemistry on stage, and it’s as much fun to follow the surprising course of their relationship as it is the caper itself. One of the quirks of O’Kelly’s script is that the characters often narrate out loud what is going on (“Boots in the hallway are coming closer”, “I tiptoe across the floor”, etc.). Olinick and Ingvarsson do this without it seeming odd or inorganic; on the contrary, it greatly aids in the storytelling.
Paige Hathaway accommodates the script’s multiple locations by providing a minimalist, versatile Scenic Design. A simple, abstract-designed floor and backdrop, two chairs, and a trunk make up the entire set, which the actors skillfully utilize to paint a picture of all of their various locations. A clever Lighting Design by Marianne Meadows adds clarity and pop, Sound Designer Gordon Nimmo-Smith provides a solid aural foundation, and Costume Designer Lynly Saunders gives her actors fun and character-appropriate wardrobes.
Little Thing, Big Thing is a crime drama with a big sense of humor and a surprising heart. The engaging script, wonderful performances and fun design make for a fierce good night at the theatre.
Running Time: One hour and forty minutes, with no intermission.
Little Thing, Big Thing plays through November 27 at Solas Nua, performing at Flashpoint Mead Theatre Gallery – 916 G Street NW, in Washington, D.C. Tickets may be purchased at the door or by going online.