The scene is London, above and below ground. The year is 1908. Our hero, the intrepid and brilliantly articulate Mr. Gabriel Syme (Dan Granata), has wormed his way into the secret heart of a nest of terrorist anarchists hell-bent on destroying orderly civilization. Or perhaps not. The group's enigmatic leader, code-named "Sunday" (played with Wellesian charm by Sean Patrick Fawcett), seems just as determined to spread confusion and disorder among his own ranks. It's up to Syme to untangle the convoluted webs that Sunday and his crew weave across the path of law and order.
Based on a novel by G.K. Chesteron written just over a century ago, "The Man Who Was Thursday" is surprisingly, even shockingly, topical. But New Leaf Theatre's stage adaptation does not belabor the point, leaving it up to the audience to trace connections between Syme's unpredictable, dangerous world and our own. The production eschews preaching, and offers instead a smorgasbord of theatrical delights: from intelligent, often hilarious acting from the entire ensemble to director Jessica Hutchinson's delightful, innovative staging and Nick Keenan's ingenious sound design.
As Syme, Dan Granata is the center of the play's action, and his delivery and timing are a marvel. His comrades in anarchy and the good fight against it are played by a beautifully coordinated, versatile and very talented cast.
Throughout, the greatest pleasure of the play is its language. In adapting the novel for the stage, playwright Bilal Dardai has wisely retained the complexity and richness of Chesterton's literary prose; the result is something between play and novel, with dialogue doing the work of narration and narration infused with the urgency and responsiveness of dialogue. In the climactic final scenes, the play's intellectual and moral underpinnings emerge from under all the virtuosic verbiage.