McElvain received the I.R.N.E (Independent Reviewers of New England) Award for Best Solo Performance for his turn in St. Nicholas, yet initially had his doubts. "I was so terrified by the play," he admits. "I was just trying to keep it alive moment to moment." But then The Phoenix wrote, "I can't imagine a better performance," and The Boston Globe gushed, "McElvain has the audience hanging, not just on his every word, but on his every nuance and gesture."
A 25-year veteran of the Boston theater scene, McElvain is practically a Boston institution, with a talent for comedy that belies his ability to evoke deep sadness. In St. Nicholas, his portrayal of a bitter, middle-aged theater critic seems to have struck a nerve. "Guys would stop me on the street and talk about how taken they were with it. The way McPherson captures self-doubt is really spot-on. He's only 24 years old, but he seems to have found a conduit into the minds of these men who have lived most of their lives, and now have grave doubts about it."
Conor McPherson is something of a wunderkind. One of Ireland's most exciting new playwrights, he has already garnered a handful of awards. In 1998, McPherson had three plays running simultaneously in New York, including The Weir on Broadway. St. Nicholas was commissioned by The Bush Theater in London, where it was first performed. His plays have caught the fancy of many local theaters, and The New Repertory Theater will be presenting St. Nicholas as part of their season next year.
Both Orchard and O'Reilly seem enthusiastic about the possibilities that the Súgán-A.R.T. cross-pollination offers. "It opens you up to a new audience--it charges the arteries of the theater community," O'Reilly notes. "There is a danger in being labeled an 'ethnic company.' You remain in a niche and you don't grow, and neither does your audience. We're not about that; we're about theater."