A Couple of Blaguards

What's the coziest pub in Petaluma?

If I said Cinnabar Theater, you'd be surprised.

But the current show, "A Couple of Blaguards," has such a realistic-looking pub, it's a temptation to hop up on stage and warm your hands at the blazing fireplace.

Instead, though, why not pick up a drink — alcoholic or non — in the lobby, sit down (it's cabaret seating so there's a table on which to park your beverage) and enjoy the show.

There's a lot to enjoy — and it's so much fun you may be tempted to do what I did afterward: ask Cinnabar's artistic director Elly Lichtenstein if we could watch it all over again.

"A Couple of Blaguards" is a delight. Those who noted the show is written by brothers Frank and Malachy McCourt may be wary. After all, Frank McCourt's autobiography, "Angela's Ashes," while well-written enough to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1997, was often difficult to read, dealing as it did with his father's chronic drunkenness and the family's squalid, achingly poor life in Limerick, Ireland in the 1930s and &‘40s.

In "Blaguards" though, the McCourt brothers deal lightly and humorously with serious topics and the result is terrific, a spicy blend of wit, satire, tall tales, parody, irreverent humor and the Irish love of language. I particularly liked lines like, "There wasn't a star to be seen for love nor sausages," and "Dad got an Irish divorce — he disappeared."

Malachy McCourt is quoted in the program as saying the show is the result of the brothers listening to "the stories of our elders." He also comments that "if you don't have a good evening, you should have yourself checked to make sure you haven't died during the day." Hear, hear.

This two-man show stars Tim Kniffin and Steven Abbott as, respectively, Malachy and Frank (and a host of other characters: among others, their father, mother, grandmother, girlfriends, teacher, priests and employers). It's a comfortable feeling to be able to, as they say, sit back, relax and enjoy the show, knowing you're in the presence of good actors and don't have to worry: will they forget their lines, sing off-key or simply not be believable?

Abbott and Kniffin are not only excellent actors, they're clearly having fun. And they work so well together, you could believe they are brothers.

Also having fun is the band. Of course there's a band. It wouldn't be a true Irish show without music and the Sonoma County trio Youkali gets your toes tapping from their first note. Josh Fossgreen, Daniel Kahane and Roxanne Oliva, plus the show's music director, Jim Peterson, also join in as chorus when needed — and laugh as heartily as the audience at some of Abbott and Kniffin's characterizations and actions.

Two thumbs up as well to Sheri Lee Miller's clever direction (watch the band when Frank [Abbott] is telling about his job building stages and platforms) and to Heritage Salvage for that terrific pub floor. I noted the program thanked two Sonoma County pubs — Petaluma's Maguire's and Sebastopol's Jasper O'Farrells — so there's good reason for the authenticity of that cozy pub that's been installed down at the Cinnabar.

"A Couple of Blaguards" runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Jan. 27 at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North. Tickets are $25 to $35. For reservations, call 763-8920 or visit cinnabartheater.org.

(Contact Katie Watts at argus@arguscourier.com)