Strawdog Theatre Company’s program guide tells us what the play is about, and for those of us with tin ears for Irish brogues (of sorts), expressions and historic references, this program book is essential.
As the title suggests it is the story of an Irish-American coming back to his boyhood home near Galway, or more specifically the pub of that town, to meet his old comrades. What ensues is first and foremost a LOT of drinking. And for those of us familiar with how restraints can be lost with alcohol, we do get a progression of truths from each character’s perspective as their night goes on and whiskey shots are downed. We go on this drunk with them, and the only thing missing is the next day hangover.
The time period referenced spans a high point of idealism when John F. Kennedy, an Irish son, calls the world to forward thinking. This night happens when that high moment is long passed and there is a return to the deeply inbred cynical streak that runs through Irish culture, or at least that part of Ireland that frequents this pub.
This play didn’t need to be set in Ireland or that specific historic moment to be about how middle-aged people come to a moment or two when they grapple with their lack of success in youth. But it is set in a very specific moment in Ireland and with layers of historic reference and turns of phrase that were difficult to follow. There is obviously a lot of nuance in the dialogue, but it is not easy to grasp. I imagine that Irish-born who came of age during the economic roar of the Celtic Tiger might have some difficulty following this as well.
You need to not only love Ireland and Irish culture, as so many of us do, to “get” this play. Your enjoyment of this play would probably go through the roof if you had lived in the thin slice of time and place that the play is corseted by.
Credit goes to the cast in delivering performances that keep us engaged if not altogether in the light. These include: Michael Dailey as Tom, the disheartened school master who stayed behind in the town; Anita Deely as Peggy, his decade and counting fiancée; Jeff Duhigg as Junior; Janice O’Neill as Missus, the very slow serving proprietress of the pub; Ed Porter as Liam; and Adam Soule as the émigré returned, Michael; and on opening night a heroic performance for a last-minute fill in for Emily Nichelson, who plays Anne.
August 16 – September 28, 2013
Strawdog Theater Company
3829 North Broadway, Chicago
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. Single Tickets are $28.
Tickets may be ordered online at strawdog.org or by calling OvationTix toll-free: 866-811-4111..