Review by Tulis McCall
(13 Sep 2010)
Owen O’Neill is a magnetic performer. He has skill, and patience and precision of thought and movement. Everything that would make him not only an excellent actor but a dandy serial killer. Let us give thanks that he has chosen the stage instead of the slaughter.
O’Neill takes advantage of our more grisly angels, the guides that make us slow down when we near a car accident or sit night after night in front of the television and listen to the details of our unfortunate brethren who have and are suffering. There but for the grace of God, we think. We keep an eye on the unfortunate and judge our fortune by their proximity to us.
The MAN in this tale keeps an eye out as well. Where we withdraw to our safe enclosures he advances to right and smite. He does so with the specificity of Steven King, and his release comes in the telling of the tale. In another actor’s hands this telling would slip into the trap of predictability. In O’Neill’s hands the telling is handed over directly into the souls of the listeners.
We, the audience, are placed on the razor’s edge. Do we approve or condemn? Would we do the same thing if given a chance and the support of the Almighty who, not to make too fine a point of it, isn’t doing all that much in the “writing of wrongs” department. As a matter of fact, the Almighty seems to be more or less unavailable, especially when it comes to His Church and the little children who have placed their trust not only in the Lord but in his spokes persons. Ah, the priests of the Catholic Church who, even today in Belgium, are being exposed as hypocrites and criminals.
In Absolution, the inner circle of abuse has its own revolving door. Commit the crime. Repent. Repeat. Simple and magnificent in its logic. O’Neil not only enters this cabal, he dissects it.
It is a riveting evening that will leave you chock-a-block full of questions that only you can answer. Where would you come down on the scales of justice when the criminal is an avenger? It is one thing to consider this question over a glass of wine at a local Bistro.
Owen O’Neill snatches you out of your comfort zone into the bog of right and wrong, where the facts are clear and your judgment is not. Bravo.
"Even at just over an hour, the play seems a tough slog, little more than a chronicle of vice and vengeance that doesn’t bring us any new insights into the horrors it recounts ... O’Neill’s performance holds the attention fast with its understated, almost offhand intensity."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"He (Owen O'Neil) and director Rachel O'Riordan create a crackling theatrical experience in which nothing said or done is wasted... It is white-knuckle theater, and New York should welcome its arrival."
Clifford Lee Johnson III for Back Stage