"Den of Thieves"

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Through April 17 at SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. $40; 677-9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org.

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The idea of a bunch of misfits trying to pull off the perfect crime has been done to death, then buried, then cremated, then reanimated as a zombie, shot by an angry mob, and buried a second time. But Den of Thieves, making its Bay Area premiere at SF Playhouse, has a lot going for it despite relying on this trope. Maggie is in a 12-step program for kleptomaniacs; Paul is her sponsor — in fact, he's in so many 12-step programs that he's probably your sponsor, too. These two characters, expertly played by Kathryn Tkel and Casey Jackson, are the appealing and resonant heart of a story that is fast, energetic, and hilarious. The script by Stephen Adly Guirgis (who also wrote Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train) charms from the very first moments, and feels far shorter than its two-hour run time. Not all is perfect: Wannabe Hispanic-gangster Flaco (Chad Deverman) is almost irredeemably over the top, and "dancer" Boochie (Corinne Proctor) — exactly the character you'd imagine from her name — forgoes a top entirely in her line of work. And what's with the accents? We get it, people: You're in New York. Still, with the second act's strong opening, and two mobsters played with perfect comic timing, Den of Thieves keeps things animated and makes for a great night out.

 
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