Menu Close

Howie the Rookie: In brief
Tom Vaughan-Lawlor plays both roles in a reconceived version of writer-director Mark O’Rowe’s brutal Dublin drama, which first rocked New York in 2001.

Howie the Rookie: Theater review by Helen Shaw

Mark O’Rowe’s Howie the Rookie has already had two New York productions, a tour in 2001 and a local production in 2005. Now it is back, in a startlingly beautiful one-man version that seems written for its new star, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, perhaps because O’Rowe himself has taken on directing duties. And if producers want to bring Howie back four years from now, then ten, then twelve, we’ll still greet the gorgeous thing with huzzahs: O’Rowe’s hilarious, pimp-rollin’, blood-soaked text has Shakespeare’s interiority, Marlowe’s viciousness and a cowboy’s jangling gait; it’s got Joyce’s sense of place, Faulkner’s sense of language and even a sprinkling of murderously timed fart jokes.

The show is a diptych that follows first Howie (Vaughan-Lawlor in a red shirt) on a night out cruising for vengeance, then the Rookie (Vaughan-Lawlor in a blue shirt) as Howie’s victim, mate and witness. Set designer Paul Wills and lighting designer Sinead McKenna give the actor a clean stage and a long stripe of colored light to stand in front of, and the rest of the physical production is just (just!) Vaughan-Lawlor striding to and fro, falling into a low dancer’s crouch, tipping forward on his sneakers, assembling himself for a dive.

The Irish slang is dense: dense as fog, dense as fuck. If you can figure out lines like, “Out they come – John Woo, Last Hurrah for Chivalry – ask us we / wanna come down the Mercy loop, mile an’ a half, snakin’ road / watch Ginger Boy surf on the roof,” then you’ve probably got family in Derry. But half the fun is in chasing the language, surfing its roof like Ginger Boy (“hair red enough to stop traffic”) and trying to decipher the jive before the story turns horrific. There’s a little pang in recommending a show that has only a few more performances, but—as of this writing—the run is not yet sold out. It’s a speedy, heady high, one that dashes as fast as its brutish protagonists, who take all of life in a headlong rush. Run to BAM to see it; even in your seat, you’ll feel you’re running still.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A virtuosic revival of O’Rowe’s lyrical monologue.

Written by Helen Shaw for Time Out 12.12.14