Review Round-Up: Basra Boy

The Washington Post

“In a succinct 70 minutes that pulse with slangy lyricism, “Basra Boy” paints a vibrant portrait of an exuberant teenager and his quirky, down-at-heels community. As brought to life by director Abigail Isaac and the appealing performer Josh Sticklin, who portrays multiple characters, it’s a piece that starts as a funny, antic romp and ends as a touching tribute to friendship and to the process of growing up … Sticklin brings an intriguing touch of choirboy sweetness to the irreverent, cheerfully dissolute Speedy …  It’s a flavorful and physically vigorous performance … While accentuating Speedy’s intermittent loneliness, Dan Martin’s focused lighting design helps distinguish the locales and time frames that float into view in “Basra Boy.”  And Isaac’s sound design conjures up war-torn Afghanistan, as well as the YouTube military and jihad videos that stoke Stig’s and Speedy’s wanderlust. But the production never gets in the way of Jenkinson’s writing, with its propulsive rhythms, piquant wisecracks, canny allusions and stream-of-consciousness riffs exulting in poetic details and phrasings. Were the East Sons of Ulster’s tunes as resonant and well pitched, the band would do its home town proud.”
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DC Theatre Scene

“Isaac has crafted the production beautifully to make every scene fold into another with minimum fuss and lightning speed.  She is aided by the energetic and fearless Sticklin, who flings himself through the air, twisting, turning, and marching, now swaggering like a bantam rooster, now crouching in pain after getting punched out in a fight. His oral skills are just as fearless, for Sticklin not only has nailed the accent, but he treats the audience to a rain of words with such confidence and relish that we get word-drunk along with him. This is a dazzling performance of a very gifted actor … The play is written like a piece of music. What appears at first the ramblings of a young man are actually finely tuned to come together in a cohesive whole. Playwright Rosemary Jenkinson weaves themes and tempi, doubling back to repeat phrases that show us her writing is always in control. … This is a play not to be missed, and, moment for moment, it’s a performance packed with dynamite and delight.”
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Washington City Paper

“Josh Sticklin vibrates like a hopped-up hummingbird as Speedy … Sticklin is a charmer, charismatic and tireless. … a suitable companion for The Weir. What the wasted Speedy and the waning sods of McPherson’s tale have in common is their sharklike approach to self-documetation: If they stop talking, they die…”
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DC Examiner

Josh Sticklin shines in one-man ‘Basra Boy’ … Sticklin plays all the roles in this beautifully crafted play, delineating clearly in his rapid-fire brogue the who’s who of Stig’s and Speedy’s youth … Director Abigail Isaac paces Sticklin’s performance well, emphasizing the physicality that is packed into Jenkinson’s script. … This “Basra Boy” succeeds for two reasons: Jenkinson’s ability to write a humorous, poignant but unsentimental play about a close-knit pair of friends and the nostalgia one of those friends feels when the communication between them is lost; and Sticklin’s boundless energy, his ability to sustain convoluted emotions and to shift rapidly from scene to scene and persona to persona, taking the audience on a whirlwind tour of one not-so-bad boy’s life.”
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The Washington Blade

“A star is born. It may sound preposterous, but it’s true. Josh Sticklin, 25, makes his bid for a future career of real acting renown by his role — really, 13 of them — in a one-man show, the world premiere of ‘Basra Boy’ … The lithe and limber Sticklin plays the 18-year-old slacker Speedy in this world premiere of a play by Belfast native Rosemary Jenkinson. It’s a political play as well as highly physical theater propelled by an explosive rush of words, sometimes oddly poetic, almost like Dylan Thomas, sometimes coarsely coruscating, in the angry motormouth dialect of a Belfast teenager. It’s set in the dead-end world of young men without much education, on the dole with no chance at finding a job, and finding meaning only in hanging out with his mates, flirting with girls, drinking and brawling. He and a friend, Stig, enlist in the British army and give playwright Jenkinson a chance to present her self-described “anti-war” sentiments.

Sticklin plays both roles, plus 11 others, in a truly virtuoso performance, morphing from one character to another, sometimes juggling four of them at the same time, and careening about the stage in leaps and twists and turns, hurling himself into this play with fierce intensity and raucous humor.”
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