The American dream had long since passed Sal’s Bar by; its frequenters left trying to find their lost hopes and dreams at the bottom of their (probably not all that clean) glasses of whiskey and rye. Unsurprisingly for a play set entirely in a place where people, in quite a literal sense, drown their sorrows, “The Sieve Never Leaks” was a boozily atmospheric slice of Americana gone awry, where the men were men and the femmes as fatale-ish as the best of them.

We are introduced to the life of Solly, with the unfortunate moniker for someone in the criminal underworld of “The Sieve”. Seemingly content with his lot, accompanied by drinking partners Mac, the all-important barman, and laconic former detective Mike Molloy, their peaceful stupors are brought to an abrupt end after Solly’s crude attempts to blackmail seductively icy reporter Andrea. Solly is at first blissfully unaware of the danger he has put himself in, and so begins an intricately spun web of deceit, danger, dreams and of course, more drink. Ensuing encounters with some of 50s Chicago’s most crooked see Solly rise up, and inevitably fall back down on the bar floor with a thud.

That said, for all the testosterone, Sonabend delivered touching moments as much as swashbuckling machismo. The abusive relationship between Natalie Barclay’s somewhat unsettlingly unhinged Daisy, who arrives back on the scene in pursuit of the supposedly newly on the top of his game but perma-inept Solly made for some poignant scenes. Molloy’s breaking of the fourth wall kept the audience apace with the action and added another dimension to an essentially tried and tested plot formula. The evocative musical score and set design, true to the dingiest watering holes of the time reeled the audience right into the Sieve’s little, messy, world.

A punchy set of loveable, if not exactly innovative, characters, coupled with an evocative script helped sure over some of the play’s more static moments – whilst certainly an entertaining production, edge of seat moments were sometimes a bit thin on the ground. That said, Sonabend’s mix of buffoonery and drama, with an little bit of pathos thrown in for good measure mixed quite well, to form a satisfying piece of work from the first sip to the last.

Jason Gregory

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