David Leddy’s Long Live the Little Knife, a 2013 Edinburgh Fringe hit now receiving a stylish production at Inis Nua, strikes me as the theatrical equivalent of one of those enormous weekend flea markets you find in country towns. Everywhere you turn are curiosities – the pleasure (as well as the challenge) is to make sense of it. There may be treasures lurking, but there’s little organization. If you’re the sort of shopper who wants to find shirts in a shirt department, it’s not your thing. If you love the sense of exploration, you’ll have fun – but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Liz and Jim, Little Knife’s two characters, are embarking on a career in art forgery. The business isn’t totally new to them – they’ve previously trafficked, with some success but also some danger, in merchandise like knock-off Prada bags and fake high-end watches. But the stakes are higher here, and their new line of work brings Liz and Jim into a very unpredicable world – a story they narrate with panache. Liz and Jim, you see, are their own best creations.
To all this, Leddy brings vivid imagination and a gift for word play. On opening night, much of the audience laughed appreciatively, though as with other Fringe imports, the frame of reference is often unfamiliar to Americans.
I admire Leddy’s virtuosity. But Little Knife mixes edgy fun with some very serious topics – the disappearance of authenticity and other, even darker elements (not to be spoiled here) – and I don’t think the play pulls it together.
Director Tom Reing has given Little Knife an ingeniously staged production, and the company – Tim Dugan as Jim, Corrina Burns as Liz – throw themselves into it with brio. With a short running time (65 minutes), it never drags.
Ultimately, I think the old adage applies here – for those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like.
Through Feb. 22, Inis Nua at Off-Broad St. Theatre, 1636 Sansom St., www.inisnuatheatre.org