The subject of Ronan Noone’s The Atheist turns out not to be God, but our other American religion, tabloid journalism. In this 90-minute monologue, Augustine Early, a young Geraldo wannabe, sips scotch and pours his sordid story into a video camera—how he perverted the justice system and preyed on vulnerable politicians in his rabid quest for fame. Noone, an Ireland-born playwright, has written a classic confessional for his all-American hero. Like his holy namesake, this Augustine seeks redemption after a life of sinning.
But his sins, disappointingly, are not dazzling enough to confess. The play evokes the tradition of other recent Irish monologue plays, which work best when the audience delights in the unreliability of the storyteller. Here the narrative is relatively straightforward and flat, despite the flashing of titillating details. The actor Chris Pine is likable and lively, but cannot give full life to the supporting characters. And David Sullivan’s static direction does not help him find the necessary peaks and valleys in Noone’s endless “then this happened, then that happened” litany. Like a bad tabloid story, The Atheist is full of who, what, where, and when—but little about why the audience should care.