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'Silent' is perfect showcase for Kinevane

Theatre / By Orla O'Sullivan

“Silent” written by Pat Kinevane * Directed by Jim Culleton * Starring Pat Kinevane * The Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st St., at 11th Avenue, NYC * Tickets: (866) 811-4111 * Run has been extended a week through Sunday, Sept. 30.

If Pat Kinevane is in danger of being typecast in the tiny niche of roles for homeless characters after his one-man show “Silent,” running at the Irish Arts Center through, it’s a risk worth taking.

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Kinevane also played a homeless man in last year’s Oscar-nominated short film, “Shoe.” He is captivating in both, but “Silent” lets him show off his talents as a mime and writer.

The show opens to the stark scene of a rumpled blanket on a deserted stage and the light tinkle of piano music, perhaps Chopin. A foot emerges, toes pointed to the ceiling, and is joined by another in silhouette in a balletic dance. It is an ingeniously absurd introduction to the star of the show, ’Tino McGoldrig, named after silent-movie heartthrob Rudolph Valentino. (To go by Rudolph, “would have been a disaster in Cobh [Kinevane’s birthplace],” Tino later explains. “I would have been stoned to death with pellets of my own s****.)”

That small-town mentality drove his homosexual brother to suicide, and Tino towards madness. Channeling the wide-eyed intensity of silent film-acting, Kinevane mercurially conveys other destabilizing influences, including a mother so narcissistic she dolls herself up for the police each time she awaits word of the brother’s latest suicide attempt.

The story feels less compelling than the telling.

Direction is in the sure hands of Jim Culleton from Dublin’s Fishamble, back in New York with a bang for the annual 1st Irish Theater Festival. Like a stand-up comic, Kinevane dismantles “the fourth wall” and interacts with a couple of audience members. (At one point, Tino tells one participant he’s not as mad as the other.)

As an actor, with little more than a blanket to play against, Kinevane mimes through scenes that have it sweep between his legs convincingly as his ballroom-dancing partner. Later, the blanket nods a puppet-style “I do” in a wedding scene where Kinevane’s facial expressions of a groom feigning bravado are perfect. And as a writer, he has some inspired touches, including a scene where Tinto lays out his theory that Cork and France have lots in common, “Both aggressive, arrogant… But most of all—the accents—la toilette, de toilette…Voila – Malla! [Mallow] … All in the throat. Fuch offf youuu languuur!”

Equally unscientific, a poll the Echo conducted on the night of the performance indicated that “Silent” might, understandably, have spoken more to Irish-born attendees. Regardless, the play is bound for Los Angeles, having made its U.S. debut in New York. First produced in 2010, “Silent” has won several awards across the Pond, including first place at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year.