THE ATHEIST at Barrow Street Theatre

Two plays in one day. Last night, we went to Barrow Street Theatre to see Ronan Noone‘s The Atheist, a one-person show starring Campbell Scott.

After seeing several awesome shows at Barrow Street, our new rule of thumb is to just go to see whatever they’re presenting every time we come to New York. Tracy LettsBug was unbelievably great; Adam Rapp‘s Red Light Winter was fantastic; and now Ronan Noone‘s The Atheist keeps the streak going.

I’m not sure whether it’s the writing or the acting, but I suspect the acting has a whole lot to do with it. Campbell Scott is immensely compelling as Augustine Early, a manipulative journalist who tells a fascinating story of his rise from obit writer to nationally-known pundit with not much care of how he gets there.

But he was equally compelling in a talkback after the show. In fact, the several times I’ve had a chance to meet or see movie stars in real life, you understand why they’re movie stars. A lot of ’em just have a charisma that dominates a room and would probably blow away casting directors.

So maybe it’s him. But I don’t know. The writing is pretty damn powerful, too. Ronan Noone is an Irish playwright, and a lot of those bastards have a way of writing crazy-good monologues that make me question my knee-jerk aversion to one-person shows. Scott mentioned in the talkback that the script is written in poetic form, like a jazz score, with no punctuation and lots of odd line breaks — and you can kind of feel that in the performance. The whole thing flows in a gorgeous, jazzy way.

And hey, it’s 40 minutes for the first act, 45 minutes for the second act, and only about $40, so there’s plenty of time afterwards to hit a Village bar for a beer and discussion afterwards. And isn’t that what theatre really is? Something to talk about while you do the important work of drinking beer and talking?