REVIEW: Theatre-on-the-Hill’s Den of Thieves

I was asked to review Theatre-on-the-Hill‘s fall production of Den of Thieves, and naturally I was honored to obliged. Then came a few issues:

This production of Den of Thieves has two roles that are double-cast, meaning that the performance dates are split between multiple actors. Theatre-on-the-Hill is notorious of doing this, particularly during the summer musical shows, this happens a lot less often during their Spring or Fall shows.

So which cast version to review upon? Well I went Opening Night, which wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t fantastic either. Then I went on the following Saturday night performance which was by and large the better of the two… so guess what my “legitimate” review was about?

This show will be open through the month of November 2011 in Bolingbrook. The version below was edited for the TribLocal online newspaper. I will include my original version in a bit.


If there was $750K in cash stashed in a nightclub’s poorly protected safe just begging to be stolen, and no one but a “bunch of stupid idiots” could screw up the robbery, would you do it? And if you were participating in a 12-step program to give up a life of crime, would you fall off the bandwagon momentarily for a crack at all that easy cash?

This question (among many others) is posed in Theatre-on-the-Hill’s raucous production of Stephen Alan Guirgis’ heist comedy, Den of Thieves. Craig J. Engel’s sharp direction and pacing gives the production a jolt of adrenaline. The first act introduces half of the very colorful characters, and sets up the fun that ensues in act two.

The show opens by introducing Paul and Maggie. Maggie is a compulsive thief (among other things) and Paul is her 12-step sponsor. Lori Rohr of Palatine plays Maggie with so much emotion, spirit, and soul that you cannot help but be drawn into her sad story. TOTH newcomer Paul Garrison, plays Maggie’s sponsor Paul Abraham Handleman, and he shows great range and versatility in a challenging role.

The scheme is introduced when petty crook Flaco, portrayed by Adam Krause, comes waltzing back into Maggie’s life. Flaco has discovered a huge cache of cash and tries to enlist Maggie and Paul as accomplices in the robbery. Adam brings a sense of humanity to a character that is VERY “street”. Krause’s nuanced work creates a many-layered character, and in doing so, helps the audience identify with a character that is all but unrelatable.

Of course, no crime comedy would be complete without a street-smart stripper. Boochie (as joyfully played by Seneca Lee Evensen) struts, shimmies, and flirts with everyone as she tries to transform her life into one of “one of diamonds, furs, and extravagant leisure”.

To give anything more away would be unpardonable, but needless to say, things get VERY interesting in Act Two. There we meet Louis “The Little Tuna” Pescatore, his cousin, Sallie ’Nads, and patriarch Al “The Big Tuna” Pescatore.

Bill Smith is imposing and highly entertaining as “The Big Tuna”, Cameron Nowicki plays “The Little Tuna” with conviction and vulnerability, and is just a riot to watch onstage. And finally, acting newcomer Jason Gavin (the sadistic Sallie ‘Nads) brings a swagger and confidence in his acting that one would not expect to see in an acting novice.

Many things make this show a joy to watch. Craig J. Engel’s crisp interpretation of an unpredictable script, the journey each character makes, catharsis and redemption when they unexpectedly find themselves in a deadly situation, and the many completely unexpected moments of scares and laughs.

What makes Mr. Engel’s direction unique is how he mixes veteran actors and newcomers and coaxes the absolute best out of everyone. And in doing so, his shows always have the air of professionalism that guests have come to expect from a Theatre-on-the-Hill production.

The best part of this show? It’s REALLY entertaining, edgy, sexy, funny, and not your typical, safe, suburban fare. Frankly, this is not the type of show that comes to the suburbs very often. Unless, of course, you enjoy going to the theater out in Bolingbrook at Theatre-on-the-Hill.

So come and enjoy the ride and laughs that is Den of Thieves – because honestly, why steal $750K yourself when you can be entertained by watching others attempt the feat!

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