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The criminal kind: Giles Davies in Jobsite’s ‘The Smuggler’

Bill DeYoung



Giles Davies in "The Smuggler" at Jobsite Theater. Photo: Stage Photography of Tampa.

Tim Finnegan is living proof that the American Dream comes with a hefty price tag. For the 80 minutes of playwright Ronan Noone’s The Smuggler, Tim tells the sordid story of how he went from idealistic Irish immigrant to cold-hearted American criminal.

The Jobsite Theater production, which opened Friday, casts company member Giles Davies as Finnegan. He’s alone on the stage, but never still, and during those moments when the story needs extra punctuating, he’ll “become” the other people in Tim’s orbit – the innocent, the dirty, the wholesome and the wretched.

The unfolding ironies in The Smuggler come fast and curious, starting with fact that Noone has set the play in the Massachusetts town of Amity Island, the setting for that ravenous fish tale, Jaws. Tim Finnegan, an immigrant himself, begins his criminal career by robbing illegal immigrants, who can’t have bank accounts and so stash their cash in jars and pillowcases at home. During the day, while they’re out working, he breaks in and loots.

All his dialogue rhymes. Hence the subtitle A Thriller in Verse.

Davies admits there are challenges, even for a veteran professional actor, to keeping everything straight.

The biggest, he says, is “to maintain the focus on the moment, the here and now, and also on the story. That I’m giving each of the characters their fair due in the moment. The physicality, or the dialect, or simply their emotional placement.

“Because I’m moving so quickly from one character to another, and obviously it’s vital to the storytelling that you understand each of the perspectives the characters are having. Even if they only have five or six words to share, I’ve got to make sure that I stay in the moment. And that Tim is truly trying to get across his story.”

He first performed The Smuggler with Sarasota’s Urbanite Theatre in 2022. The box office was strong, the reviews glowing. Jobsite artistic director David Jenkins slotted a Tampa production into the next available season.

Davis says the Sarasota run “made me fall in love with the piece. And so when I managed to talk David into putting it in the season, I was thrilled. I’m really excited to bring it to the Tampa Bay audience, and I know it will get received differently here. They’ll have a different perspective.” Jenkins is directing this production.

The Smuggler is set in a working bar; Finnegan serves actual shots to a few audience members as he spins his yarn.

Finnegan begins as a likeable, Lucky-the Leprechaun sort of guy, so much so that when he rationalizes his early crimes by explaining he needed money to improve things for his wife and young son, he’s believable.

The darkness descends like a barely perceptible shadow. He doesn’t exactly become Bill the Butcher, but he changes. The audience can feel it.

Every performance, explains Davies, brings new discoveries for him. “That’s how I know I’m in the here and now, and I’m present with it,” he says. “When a new inflection or a new gesture or facial expression will come out of me. Because I’m being true and honest to the moment at hand.”

With so much dialogue – and so many rhymes – it would be “very easy to jump, because all of it is so familiar. As long as I’m really in the moment, and I’m in the story, I have to tell the next thing.”

Davies appears with regularity in Jobsite shows; he’s played everyone from Hamlet to Dracula.

RELATED: Arts Alive! podcast: Actor Giles Davies

“The demands are much higher with a solo show,” he explains. “Although, because of that, I find I get so much more out of myself. Because the requirements are so high – the higher the bar, the greater the amount of energy you get out of yourself in trying to reach that bar.

“In ensemble work, I want to be ensuring that it has the same level of focus and dedication to me. If you want to look good onstage, you make your partner look good. In a solo piece, my scene partner is the audience. It has to be. So it is really about the communion between actor and audience.

“The thing that really turns me on, the reason I do live theater as opposed to anything else, is that magical communion of the here and now.”

Info and tickets for The Smuggler.






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