The aftermath of losing a loved one sends most families into a schizophrenic tailspin where the survivors both try to fill the new void in their lives while also leaving a place of reverence in which to remember and honor the dearly departed. Such is the case with the Donnelly Family on Ann Noble’s Irish family drama, And Neither Have I Wings to Fly, currently running at the Road Theatre Company on North Hollywood.
Somewhere in the rural outskirts of Dublin, a family returns from burying their Mother. Eveline (Ann Noble), the oldest daughter, manically pours tea, clears dishes and diligently sees to all tasks of running the household, cooking, cleaning, entertaining. Younger sister Kathleen (Stephanie Stearns) is a bit more pensive, determined now more than ever to finish reading her mother’s favorite book. She has been stiuck on page twenty for a very long time, but she continues to try and get through it. After all, it was her mother’s favorite. Try as he might, her fiancé Leo Doyle (Danny Vasquez) is only able to lighten her mood somewhat, even with happy talk of their nuptials, just a week away. Content to drift in and out of the homes’ various rooms is Father, Peter Donnelly (Leon Russom), distracted at best. All three mourn together and yet in their own ways.
Enter an old friend of Kathleen’s, Freddy Malone (Mark Doerr) the actor. Freddy is filled with exuberance, instantly the biggest presence in the room and loving every second of attention he can squeeze from the distracted family. He has arrived with the traveling players to perform Hamlet. The glamour picture Freddy paints fascinates Kathleen, until the moment he goes too far. But Kathleen is already hook; Freddy’s shiny rhetoric begins to cast a shadow over the sweet but dull life that marriage to Leo would be. Meanwhile, as Eveline goes about her daily routine, she senses, sometimes even thinks she sees her dead mother.
The following evening, Leo brings his brother Charlie (Mark St. Amant) over to meet the family. Charlie is a troublemaker, a rebel-rouser and a womanizer. He is also clear headed and practical, just like Eveline. These brother siblings spare a bit about their childhood, and the paths that they each have chosen, and conclude that they still and have always loved each other, warts and all. And while Charlie protests that he will never be a marrying man, once look at Eveline, one taste of her potatoes and he is hooked.
Kathleen has missed Leo and Charlie’s arrival because she has been off with Freddy, attending his play. Everyone, including Father Peter Donnelly, is of the uniformed the opinion that this Freddy character is no good. And Kathleen’s behavior is fair from befitting a woman getting married inside a week. But the youngest daughter cannot help but revel in Freddy’s grand soliloquies. And Eveline confirms that her dead mother Moira (Taylor Gilbert) has been haunting her from the grave.
Director Scott Cummins’ wisely entrusts the pace of the play to the gradually unfolding Irish tale and passion-imbued performances rather than herding the audience along with plot. This cast was exquisite, pitch perfect in its delicacy as well as in it’s ferocity. All performers maintained a steady, intelligible Irish brogue effortlessly. What’s more than the accents, the script gives the audience discourse between the characters was actual discourse – messy, interrupted, fragmented exchanges, the way people really converse.
Noble and Stearns portray two very unlike sisters with such beautiful disjointed harmony. Kathleen’s longing for freedom and adventure tugs stubbornly against Eveline’s traditionally ideas about propriety, appearances and one’s place in the world. Ironically, both sisters want the same thing. However, one chooses to set aside her dreams for the sake of her family while the other makes the family suffer her immaturity until her actions give them no choice but to release her from her place in the family. St. Amant and Vasquez both succumb brilliantly to a wildfire love consuming their souls and endure the manly awkwardness that usually accompanies it.
The story of And Neither Have I Wings to Fly winds and trips through a masterfully crafted labyrinth of complicated relationships. Every character has a mutli-tiered conflict and every character potentially has a pivotal effect in what will happen next in this drama. It is a story of sacrifice and discovery, of knowing when to let go and when to run after. This play was a breathe of fresh air and I can not recommend it highly enough.
And Neither Have I Wings to Fly by Ann Noble
Performances currently running Thursday – Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday @ 2pm
The Road Theatre Company
5108 Lankershim Boulevard
North Hollywood, CA 91601
For reservation call: 866-811-4111
Photo Credit: Matt Kaiser