by John Stoltenberg

There came a moment midway through Josh Sticklin’s phenomenal solo performance in Cuchullain when my mind leapt to compare him to other great stage actors who have transfixed me as much. The one I thought of first was Ian McKellen—in particular in a play called The Cut I saw in London at the Donmar Warehouse. Seriously. Sticklin is that good.

Something astounding is happening here, and we have the Keegan Theatre to thank.

Last season the Keegan presented the world premiere of a one-act, one-person play set in Belfast called Basra Boy. It starred Sticklin, was written in Belfast dialect by the Northern Irish playwright Rosemary Jenkinson, and was directed by Abigail Isaac. Sicklin played Speedy, a hyper, foul-mouthed young punk, plus a cast of supporting characters who came equally and instantly alive before our eyes by sheer dint of Sticklin’s quicksilver talent. I was knocked out.

In the wake of that production’s success, Keegan announced another world premiere this season of a another one-person play set in Belfast, written in Belfast dialect by the same author, directed once more by Isaac, and starring again Sticklin—as a hyper, foul-mouthed young punk who is this time named Aaron.

Really? I thought. Was Keegan expecting lightning to strike twice? Well, if so, Keegan could not have been more prescient, for Cuchullain is even better.

It’s got a different story (riveting, and I won’t give it away), but Sticklin is again bounding all over the stage, commanding it at every turn, and peopling it with other characters through uncanny insta-impersonation.

So compelling and convincing was Sticklin’s performance, I could have sworn that he, like the writer, is a Belfast native. He’s not. He’s a local boy. Catch him now before he makes it big.