Culture Magazine

Review: Den of Thieves (The Consortium Project)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Den of Thieves - Consortium Project Chicago   
Den of Thieves  

Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis  
Directed by Cory Glenn
at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map)
thru Oct 23  |  tickets: $15   |  more info

Check for half-price tickets  
   Read entire review



Crime doesn’t pay or entertain much


Den of Thieves - Consortium Project Chicago - Prop Thtr


The Consortium Project presents


Den of Thieves

Review by Keith Ecker

I want to give a little unsolicited advice to aspiring (and some established) playwrights: If you write a scene that is almost entirely composed of characters arguing whether to do or not to do something, you may want to rethink that scene. If you write an entire act that is nothing but characters arguing whether to do or not to do something, you may want to consider serious rewrites. The latter is what we get from Stephen Adly Guirgis (which is odd, considering Guirgis’ more-recent award-winning plays), whose Den of Thieves is being staged by The Consortium Project.

The play, which mashes a gangster crime drama with hair-brained comedy, is so poorly written that it never has the chance to be a good play. Characters are little more than cardboard archetypes. The comedy is clunky. The thematic meaning of the work—which seems to have something to do with confronting your issues in a direct and meaningful way as opposed to relying on unhealthy avoidance techniques—rings hollow. This is one of those scripts that begs the question, "How did this get produced?"

The Consortium Project’s treatment of this questionable work fails to breath much life into a script that is dead on arrival. There are some shining moments, thanks to some very committed (if not a little hammy) actors. But overall, there’s not much that can be done when you have a story that just isn’t very compelling.

Den of Thieves centers around the concepts of recovery and redemption. At the beginning, we meet Maggie (Jaclyn Jensen), a young woman who has a compulsion for stealing and eating as a means to mask her feelings. Her recovery sponsor Paul (David Guy) attempts to deter her from a life of crime and refined sugar. He sets an example, boasting about the number of days he has abstained from his vices. We then meet Maggie’s ex-boyfriend, the hotheaded Flaco (Joe Von Bokern). Flaco has an illegal get-rich-quick scheme up his sleeve that requires the use of a safe cracker. As luck would have it, Paul knows how to crack safes, a talent he acquired under the tutelage of his grandfather, an infamous criminal who stole as a hobby and gave the rewards to charity. The threesome is joined by Flaco’s new gal, the ditzy Boochie (Grace Wagner). Plans are foiled when the petty criminals get caught and fall into the hands of a dangerous group of mobsters.

The silver lining of the production comes in the form of the performances. Von Bokern has the energy of a firecracker as the loudmouthed Flaco. Meanwhile, Phil Canzano as the violence-hungry gangster Sal and Evan Absher as Little Tuna, the heir to the criminal throne, make the second act an entertaining experience.

As mentioned earlier, the majority of the play pits characters bickering with one another. This just stalls the plot and unnecessarily elongates the production, which would be better served as a five-minute sketch. And because these characters lack any real depth, the outcome of these feuds carries little weight for the audience, who at most will be as emotionally invested in these fictional people as they are to a turkey sandwich.

Director Cory Glenn may have been able to milk a little more out of this script by tweaking some of the actors’ levels. Although I appreciate the energy the cast brings to the production, everyone seems to be operating at cartoonish volumes. By trusting in the audience’s ability to pick up on subtle changes in emotion, these characters may develop richer layers. This could help shore up some of the problems with the one-note script.

Den of Thieves suffers most from bad writing. The script lacks intelligent humor, relatable characters and even the basic structure of a good play. The Consortium Project offers up several zany performances, but, in the end, this is not enough to save the production.


Rating: ★★


Den of Thieves continues through October 23rd at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm.  Tickets are $15, and are available online at More information here

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog