Does anyone in Ireland have a happy childhood? From Frank McCourt to Martin McDonagh, the Emerald Isle seems to eat its young with alarming frequency. And according to “Silent,” the florid solo show written and performed by Pat Kinevane, now in its final weekend at the Odyssey Theatre, a lad's better off on the Bataan Death March than home sweet home.
Barefoot, bald and dressed in torn black sweats, the striking Kinevane plays Tino, a homeless man whose cinema-crazed family named him after Rudolph Valentino. Not exactly a well-adjusted clan: Self-involved fashionista Mam can’t bear Tino’s tortured gay brother, who keeps trying to off himself in all sorts of hapless ways.
Working in sharp sync with director Jim Culleton, Kinevane jokes, mimes and vogues his way through scattered vignettes of Tino’s past and his present descent into madness. The show’s use of disco lights, silent movie title cards and plenty of eyeliner underscores Kinevane’s central insight: The real conundrum of the Irish is they’re all a bunch of drama queens. In this case, think “Krapp’s Last Tape” as reimagined by Madonna.
With his moody, sensual features and resonant voice, Kinevane could make a brilliant Iago (or better yet, Salome). For despite the show’s ostensible subject — the lack of a safety net for Ireland’s marginalized populations — the spotlight stays on Kinevane himself. Balletic, witty and a facile mimic, the writer-performer ends up primarily celebrating his own expressive power. The horrors he seeks to evoke get lost in the fabulous commotion.