Actor keeps you spellbound in ‘St. Nicholas’

Joe Hanrahan is a mesmerizing, loquacious actor.

In the grand tradition of a long line of gifted Irish storytellers, he can weave a fascinating yarn.

He specializes in one-man shows, and has kept me riveted in the bracing “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll” and a short play, “House.”

This time, he holds one’s attention in two one-act plays, “St. Nicholas” and “The Good Thief,” both by Conor McPherson, on alternate nights. I was fortunate to see “St. Nicholas” but missed “The Good Thief.”

As for “St. Nicholas,” he plays a jaded theater critic — guess what group was laughing in the audience — who is miserable about his lot in life. He is unhappy in marriage and in a rut at work.

Captivated by an actress in a play, he leaves his family and follows her to London. He joins in the revelry, but has a drinking problem already, and makes a fool of himself.

An encounter with a young man will change his life and he soon enters the dark world of vampires, but as an outsider let in to the inner circle. It’s a bizarre twist, but Hanrahan is able to keep you spellbound. His agility with words is truly remarkable.

The build up, however, to the end fizzles, and the wrap-up is bromides about life.

But Hanrahan is so good, I would watch him perform any character.

“The Good Thief” is about a small-time thug who is on the run for is life after being set up.

Sarah Whitney directed both shows, and in the interesting setting of Herbie’s basement, it’s an intimate experience.

At a glance

What: “St. Nicholas” and ‘The Good Thief”

Who: The Midnight Company

When: In repertory July 24, 25 and 26; “St. Nicholas” Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m.; “The Good Thief” Saturday at 8 p.m.

Where: Basement of Herbie’s Vintage 72 Restaurant, St. Louis

Information: www.midnightcompany.com

Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com