Defiance: By John Patrick Shanley. Directed by Joe Adler. With Ezra Jesse Bookman, Patti Gardner, Reiss Gaspard, Paul Homza, Bill Schwartz, and Paul Tei. Run time: 90 minutes. Through March 22. GableStage at The Biltmore, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-1119, gablestage.com
You might sense I'm extolling the virtues of Shanley's script at the expense of GableStage's production. I'm not. The minutiae under discussion would be absent from the show if director Joe Adler hadn't reached deep into his considerable reservoirs of talent and discovered a capacity for shrewdness and subtlety that is too often underutilized in his shows (there are many superlatives one could attach to the average Adler joint, but subtle isn't one). Defiance is a play that explores big concepts in tiny moments and requires extraordinary sympathy from its interpreters to avoid disintegration into a gush of useless words. Without, say, Reiss Gaspard injecting a little pain under the façade of Captain King's propriety, King would be a bit of a twat, and you'd wonder why Shanley decided to write a play about him. As it is, Gaspard and his costars act as organically — as invisibly — as Shanley wrote. Like Shanley, they leave their egos at home and meet us in the theater not to instruct or judge, but to wonder.