Don Wycherley, Carrie Crowley and David O’ Meara in 'Faithful'.

Don Wycherley, Carrie Crowley and David O’ Meara in 'Faithful'.

Don Wycherley, Carrie Crowley and David O’ Meara in 'Faithful'.

Don Wycherley, Carrie Crowley and David O’ Meara in 'Faithful'.

Don Wycherley, Carrie Crowley and David O’ Meara in 'Faithful'.

Don Wycherley, Carrie Crowley and David O’ Meara in 'Faithful'.

Faithful is a comic three-hander – or more correctly, a two-hander in the first act that becomes a three-hander in the second half. It tells the tale of a husband, Jack (David O’ Meara) who hires a hit man, Tony (Don Wycherley) to knock off his wife, Margaret (Carrie Crowley). Ostensibly, the murder is set up by Jack because his wife is cheating on him. At least, this is what Jack has lead Tony to believe. However, as the drama unfolds other motives emerge with each passing scene. There are even quite a few points where we’re not quite sure who has paid who to do what to whom. However, one of the charms of Faithful are its twists and turns in a plot which deliberately makes it difficult to know just who is telling the truth and who isn’t.

Written by well-known New York actor and author Chaz Palminteri who wrote and starred in the successful movie A Bronx Tale (directed by Robert De Niro), the essential comedy of Faithful lies in the character of the assassin Tony. Tony is a long-time professional hit man but one who has a shrink who phones him regularly, often in the middle of a job. Sometimes Tony contacts his psychiatrist at inappropriate moments, too. When Tony reveals that he has never killed a woman before and starts to have second doubts about doing away with Margaret, who doesn’t turn out to be quite the bimbo he had expected, we are treated to some comical interruptions in events via Tony’s chats with his head doctor. A further chortle is added via the fact that Tony’s psychiatrist himself seems somewhat in need of therapy and emotional reassurance. Margaret is also very persuasive and quite the seductress as she attempts to turn Tony’s head and get him to get rid of Jack instead of her.

The set design is impressive enough to leave us in no doubt that we’re in the plush apartment of well-off people even if there’s a whiff of brimstone about their luxury. All the action takes place in this one space of the sitting-room, which is remarkable for its unremarkableness but it is spacious and uncluttered and this provides an ample platform for the actors to vent their energy and any spleen the performance requires. This is all very well and good but director Tom Kibbe and his three co-conspirators, the actors, just don’t carry the story off. One reason is that having taken the decision to keep the setting of the play very much in Palminteri’s Italian New York, the accents don’t pass the test. They keep slipping out of that typical New Yorker machine gun brogue we expect and which we are all so familiar with these days thanks to everything from The Godfather to Mean Streets.

If the problem were only with the accents then The Mill’s Faithful might still have been a success. Much of the humour of the play depends upon the viciousness of assassin Tony surprisingly and inappropriately being subverted by his conscience and his soft, psychoanalytical side. However, Wycherley's Tony is never tough enough to make his subsequent introspection and wavering as hilarious an overthrow of type as it should be. David O’ Meara and Carrie Crowley’s performances also lacked a cutting edge commitment. No one was vicious and urbane enough to be convincing. Since Palminteri’s script depends entirely on the interplay and performances of the actors, that they should not be quite believable is a serious indictment. More time should have been spent on ensuring that the characters who emerge on stage are as slick as they are twisted and as ruthless as they are human and flawed. At best, Faithful is a metaphor for the murderous feelings that can exist in a marriage or relationship that has fallen out of love but plods on regardless. Most people don’t hire an assassin to get them out of the loveless bind but they do verge on wishing their partner dead. Unfortunately, Faithful simply lacked a murderous edge.

Patrick Brennan is a journalist, critic, lecturer and is currently writing a book on the theatre of Tom Murphy.
  • Review
  • Theatre

Faithful by Chaz Palminteri

10 - 22 August, 2009

Produced by The Mill Theatre
In The Mill Theatre, Dundrum

Directed by Tom Kibbe

Producer: Stephen Faloon

Set Design: Tom Ronayne

Lighting Design: Barry Donaldson

Costume Design: Petra Hjortsberg

With: Don Wycherley, Carrie Crowley and David O’Meara