Skip to main content

Originally published November 8, 2013 at 5:05 AM | Page modified November 8, 2013 at 10:53 AM

  • Share:
  • Comments (1)
  • Print

‘25 Saints’ is a tale of unlovable sinners

A review of Joshua Rollins’ play about the intersection of poverty and drugs in rural West Virginia. An Azeotrope production at ACT in Seattle.

Special to The Seattle Times


‘25 Saints’

By Joshua Rollins. Through Nov. 24, an Azeotrope production at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle; $30 (206-292-7676 or

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
This play is nothing like Breaking Bad...but in the best way. It's haunting. It's... MORE


There’s a startling phrase introduced in the final minutes of Joshua Rollins’ gritty, rural-gothic “25 Saints,” a mere three words that turn an otherwise pulpy potboiler into a somewhat more perspicacious thriller.

That phrase is “the American drug,” a reference in Rollins’ story to the methamphetamine production under way in the West Virginia cabin in the woods in “25 Saints.” It’s uttered by the play’s most compelling figure, a murderous yet oracular sheriff (a large performance by James Lapan) who likens the long hours, frenetic pace and low pay of meth manufacturing to decreasing expectations of a modern American middle class stuck in McDonald’s and Wal-Mart jobs.

If that’s not fatalistic enough, Lapan’s character — a small-town despot — sketches a vision of an environmentally and economically despoiled Appalachia as a forgotten world where every destiny circles destruction and corruption is currency.

Destruction looms over the drama’s three principals from the start. In a violent opening scene, in the Azeotrope production at ACT Theatre, Charlie (Tim Gouran), a noble sap paying off his missing brother’s debt to drug lords by cooking meth for them, and his friend Tuck (Richard Nguyen Sloniker) beat a sheriff’s deputy (fatally, they presume) after the latter sexually assaults Sammy (Libby Barnard).

The incident hastens the trio’s long-nurtured plans to escape from meth servitude, but a savvy lieutenant (Mary Murfin Bayley) in the illicit trade lets them know she’s watching.

It’s hard to muster compassion or even interest in these boxed-in losers, but empathy isn’t the point of “25 Saints.” With their individual agendas, secrets, lies, gullibility and dashed hopes, Sammy, Charlie and Tuck drag one another to spectacular doom.

The real essence of “25 Saints” is the sound of dreams splashing hard on rocks before being dragged out to sea. Among Rollins’ near-monologues about wishful thinking, two or three (especially lovely ramblings by Mariel Neto’s pizza-delivery girl) are particularly lyrical.

(Note: “25 Saints” runs in repertory at ACT with an encore of Seattle theater company Azeotrope’s well-received staging of “Red Light Winter” by Adam Rapp. Both plays are directed by Desdemona Chiang.)

Tom Keogh:

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon



Celebrate that amazing NFC win with a poster or tee shirt featuring The Seattle Times Jan. 19 front page. Order now!


Partner Video


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►