Let's Talk Off Broadway

Yvonne Korshak reviews Off-Broadway, Broadway, Film and Art

Tag: Irish Repertory Theatre

Review | The Burial At Thebes | By Seamus Heaney | From Sophocles’ Antigone | Directed by Charlotte Moore | Irish Repertory Theatre

… don’t bother …

Sophocles’ Antigone is among the greatest plays ever written, Seamus Heaney is a Nobel Prize winning poet, and Irish Repertory Theatre produces wonderful shows with outstanding actors.  How then did The Burial At Thebes turn out to be a  poor derivative of Antigone, with amateurish acting?

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Review | Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey | Directed by Charlotte Moore | Irish Repertory Theatre

Time:  September, 1922 – the height of the Irish Civil War

Place:  The two-room tenement apartment of the Boyle family in Dublin 

What an abundant play unfolds, perfectly acted and beautifully produced by the Irish Repertory Theatre!

Only one in the Boyle family is earning a living, Juno, the mother.  Daughter Mary’s out on strike.  Son Johnny is severely wounded in fighting for Irish independence and half-crazed fearing retribution for betraying an Irish Republican Army comrad who lived in this same building.  And the father, “Captain” Jack, Juno’s preening paycock of a husband, is a hard drinking former merchant seaman, who runs off to the pub with his drinking “butty” Joxer even when a job comes walking in the door.

So money’s very short, when an English solicitor, Mr. Bentham, arrives with the news that Jack is about to receive a substantial inheritance.  Anticipating the windfall, the Boyles purchase handsome new furniture on credit.  And — icing on the cake — the handsome and professional Mr. Bentham is in love with beautiful Mary – or so it seems.  The Boyle’s stand to rise upward in the world on all counts.  It’s not giving too much away to say that things don't work out that way.

In an idyllic interlude, Mary and a neighbor Maisie Madigan sing at the celebratory party at the Boyle’s apartment, a moment of joy, though with a portent:  a funeral is underway at the same time for the IRA comrade Johnny betrayed.  Life and death cling to one another in this play like two lovers dancing.

Among this outstanding cast, J. Smith-Cameron is strong yet tender as Juno, the mother who keeps things going at a time “the centre cannot hold,” as W. B. Yeats wrote in "The Second Coming" (Yeats was Juno and the Paycock’s original producer in 1924 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin).  O'Casey's language is in itself highly poetic and as Jack Boyle, Ciaran O'Reilly is particularly effective in bringing out the poetry O’Casey finds in the natural speach in the Irish dialect. 

Mary Mallen as the young Mary is principled, warmly feminine, and in love with plenty of good reasons, which don’t always take you where you want to go. Terry Donnelly is a delightfully vibrant life-of-the-party as the neighbor Maisie Madigan.  And an absolute favorite – simply fascinating to watch — is John Keating as Joxer Daly, Jack Boyle’s go-along-with-the-flow and duplicitous drinking partner.  In a play of strong characterizations, his goes farthest beyond type into unforgettable and irresistible idiosyncracy.

Populated by richly drawn characters, Juno and the Paycock moves at a rollicking and yet lifelike pace between loyalty and betrayal, rapture and despair, lofty idealism and down-to-earth reality.  I’m eager to see the other plays of O’Casey’s “Dublin Trilogy,” Shadow of a Gunman  and The Plough and the Stars, but “meanwhile” I'm grateful to Irish Repertory Theatre for this exciting and fulfilling production.

Juno and the Paycock  plays at Irish Repertory Theatre in Manhattan's Chelsea through December 29th, 2013.  For more information and tickets, click on live link of title.  EXTENDED THROUGH JANYARY 26, 2013.

Yvonne Korshak

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. NOW EXTENDED through JAN 26.

Review | Donnybrook! The Musical of the Movie The Quiet Man | Music and Lyrics by Johnny Burke | Book by Robert E. McEnroe | Directed by Charlotte Moore | Based on The Quiet Man, Short Story by Maurice Walsh | Irish Repertory Theatre

The world doesn’t need this musical.  Set in a fictional Irish village, Innisfree, in the 1920’s, it’s about the “cute Irish,” and their quaint ways including the great fun of settling conflicts with a brutal, free-for-all fight — a “donnybrook.”

The central idea, from Maurice Walsh’s 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story, is interesting — an Irish-American boxer, having killed a man and determined never to fight again, returns to his Irish village where he’s forced into a fight mandated by custom (the “donnybrook”) in order to uphold the honor of his village bride. 

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Review | Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman | Directed by David Staller | Irish Repertory Theatre / Gingold Theatrical Group

Man and Superman is a totally delightful evening of theater that lifts you from yourself with enjoyment and — thinking about it after — reminds you of what theater is all about.  It couldn’t be better.  It’s a romantic comedy as well as a play of ideas that spins off from the story of Don Juan, particularly the Don Giovanni of Mozart’s opera, though with a bit of Faust, and Milton’s Satan thrown in.  Shaw subtitled it A Comedy and a Philosophy.

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Review | Beyond the Horizon by Eugene O’Neill | Directed by Ciaran O’Reilly | Irish Repertory Theatre

While watching Beyond the Horizon, I was often gripped by the strong conflicts in individual scenes.  Yet, the play came across as less than the sum of the parts.

O’Neill won the Pulitzer Prize in 1920 for this, his first full-length play (what a personal thrill that must have been!).  The focus on a low class family — farmers brought to struggle to hold on to the farm — the use of American vernacular, and the laying bare of brutal competition within what seems on the surface a wholesome American farm family must have been electrifying at the time.   Without these issues of innovation, today the play has less going for it.

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Review | Banished Children of Eve by Kelly Younger | Adapted from the Novel by Peter Quinn | Directed by Ciaran O’Reilly | World Premier | Irish Repertory Theatre

… only four days …

This is an important play about the effects on individual lives of the Civil War draft riots in New York City.  Since $300 would get you out of serving, it was easy enough to see the draft hit poor men unfairly, stimulating poor vs. rich antagonisms which, however, fast turned racial — setting poor Whites against Blacks.  During four days in July 1863, a Black man, woman or child could not walk the streets in safety or hide in safety, and many were murdered.  In  this play, the immigrant Irish represent the poor side of that equation.

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Review | Candida by George Bernard Shaw | Directed and Designed by Tony Walton | Irish Repertory Theatre

I love Shaw and the Irish Repertory Theatre does plays wonderfully so I was keenly looking forward to Candida. It turned out to be very dull.  Why?  The play or the production?

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Review | Aristocrats by Brian Friel | Directed by Charlotte Moore | Irish Repertory Theatre

… family reunions …

Aristocrats, about a far flung family of O’Donnells converging on the crumbling family mansion in Northern Ireland for a wedding, is wordy and pedestrian — with the exception of one outstanding characterization.

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Review | Ten Blocks On The Camino Real by Tennessee Williams | Directed by David Herskovitz | Target Margin Theater

The original Camino Real, first produced on Broadway under Elia Kazan’s direction in 1953, took up the stories of several individuals grouped around Camino Real, pronounced real as in reallyreal in Target Margin’s brilliant production.  Following an early version of the play, David Herskovitz chooses to focus on one:  Kilroy, a former light-weight boxing champion, now an itinerant American who lands in the plaza of a patently violent Mexican town at fiesta time.  His pesos are stolen fast, nor do we have much hope that he’ll hang on to the mementos of the past before he was a has-been, a champion’s belt around his waist and the golden gloves looped over his shoulders.

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