Irish Repertory Theatre
Opening this weekend at the Irish Repertory Theatre is Afterplay.
Brian Friel was greatly influenced by Chekhov, even adapting Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters. Now, he revisits two of their characters: Sonya, Vanya’s dutiful niece and Andrey, the downtrodden intellectual brother of the Three Sisters. He imagines the future they may have had beyond their play settings.
We see them after their chance encounter (as strangers) the night before in a late night café in 1920’s Moscow. They had talked for hours – he, the concert violinist and she, estate owner concerned about what her next crop must be.
Now they meet again in the same place, but this evening’s confessions will be very different. Their dramatic histories are still ruling their lives. Their budding friendship will be at stake in this second meeting. The mirror they hold up to each other will have a profound effect on their self-delusions.
The two stars are well-matched. Dermot Crowley’s melodious voice is a joy to hear as he carries the weight of “what-might-have-been.” Dearbhla Molloy is excellent as the tightly-wound survivor with a sober self-awareness.
Another successful production from the Irish Rep!
End of Summer
S. N. Behrman
Written in 1936, this play revival is timely in more ways than what might seem obvious. Mr. Behrman presents a picture of the issues of the time which remain, remarkably, many of the same we still face today.
Erin Beirnard, Kelly Cooper
Set against the backdrop of Depression-era trauma, the immensely wealthy Frothingham (aptly named) family struggles to find meaning in their all-too-leisurely life; young college graduates – frustrated in their job searches – resent the industrial developments that rob many of their work; self-delusion is a constant threat and the challenge to do “what’s right.”
But before you think it’s depressing, wait! This is an urbane, delightful comedy of manners filled with one-liners. About one of the characters: “He’s non-descript.' Then the money problem again, “When you marry a rich woman, it’s always HER house.” The employment frustration: “If house painters can become leaders of nations, think what a really bright man could do!” Women’s place in society: “Well, if you can’t be a crusader, it’s better to be decorative.”
The cast is sound with one (Persian?) flaw. The constant posturing (as if for a photo shoot) by Mary McNulty as Paula, was distracting to the point where one waited for the next pose. Erin Beirnard, as Leonie, conveyed both the delicacy of her place in society and the steel of her determination. Kelly Cooper as Dr. Rice is excellent in any role I’ve seen and this was no exception. His compassion woven into a capacity for manipulation was fascinating.
End of Summer runs through November 6 at Metropolitan Playhouse. 212-995-8410.
A Drama by Helen Edmundson
Directed by Pamela Moller Kareman
The timing of this revival is all the more interesting, considering the planned policies of one of our presidential candidates.
In The Clearing, we see the very human side of Oliver Cromwell’s savage campaign to rid Ireland of Catholics and anyone associated with them.
Maddy is married to an English aristocrat who fought for his king, later moved to Ireland and now faces eviction for his relationship. Quinn Cassavale and Jakob von Eichel portray the hapless couple to perfection.
Irrespective of how long those targeted have lived (and developed land) in Ireland, they will be rounded up and evicted from their homes. In more extreme cases, they will be sent to the West Indies as slaves and servants. Neighbors and loved ones disappear. The sound of barking dogs heralds the (storm) troopers’ arrival as they search out their victims. The threat/temptation to collaborate in exchange for safety is high.
This outstanding cast holds us in its grip throughout. Overseeing the ghastly purge is Sr. Charles Sturman, chillingly portrayed by Neal Mayer. “As thin a piece of humanity as I ever hope to meet,” according to Maddy.
Lauren Currie Lewis as the faithful friend and Tessa Zugmeyer and David Licht, as neighbors and Hamish Allan-Headley as the lost love, all deliver exacting performances.
Orwell in America
By Joe Sutton
This thought-provoking and exquisitely paced piece takes place in the early years after World War II. It imagines George Orwell on an American book tour to promote his widely acclaimed latest novel, Animal Farm. He is accompanied by the young and eager publicist, Carlotta.
There is only one major problem: Orwell’s goal is to explain to his audiences why he is a proud socialist. Carlotta tries to dissuade him – usually unsuccessfully – from what she and her publishing house understand would be a dangerous gambit in the current political situation.
It becomes apparent that in America, with the Cold War looming, the term “socialist” is synonymous with “Communism” and the “Red Scare.”
Orwell will go to the lengths of an onstage demonstration to convey a) how the English post-WWII view is a reaction, and b) how socialism is really about taking care of one’s fellow man. As he explains to Carlotta, “There is no history when people are starving.”
Jeanna de Waal is ideal as the determined and naïve chaperone. Jamie Horton, as Orwell, is simply marvelous. He embodies what we would like to envisage Orwell being.
Running through October 30. 212-279-4200. www.59E59.org