There is something a bit voyeuristic about watching a play from 1933. You are watching not only the play, but slipping into the time of its creation. The speech patterns, the mannerisms, clothing, food ï¿½ the whole nine yards. And if it is presented with care and devotion, as is the case here, the experience is profound.
The town of Inish has a hotel with an enterprising owner, John Twohig (Paul Oï¿½Brien). Twohig wants to bring in a touring theatre company, not so much for the art as for the money. He does so, and in swans the duo of Mr. and Mrs. Oï¿½Hara (we think) who are known in the theatre world as Hector De La Mare and Constance Constantia. These two are as over-the-top as their names imply, but the townsfolk are no mild mannered collection of individuals either.
Love, of course is at the center of it all, and with the exception of our two actors, who seem perfectly happy in their melodramatic cocoon, everyone is tussling with their heartsï¿½ desires. Lizzie Twohig (Margaret Daly) is still pining over Peter Hurley (Jeremy Lawrence) who left her high and dry years ago. The two servants, Helena (Erin Moon) and Michael (John Keating) are falling in love as time permits. Mr. Twohig is having doubts about his wife Annie (Baibre Dowling) and their future together. And Eddie Twohig (Graham Outerbridge) is nearly mad with love for Christine Lambert (Leah Curney).
Into this nest of sturm and drang the De La Mare Acting Company steps. The company does so well that they stay on and have the opportunity to fully explore their vast repertoire of ï¿½psychological and introspective drama. The great plays of Russia, an Ibsen or two, a little Strindbergï¿½ï¿½. The longer they stay, the more the locals attend the theatre. The more they attend, the stronger the effect the plays have on them. The De La Mare mantra is to produce plays that revolutionize the soul. Although the people of Inish would flee from such a base suggestion were it presented to them, they prove to have no resistance to the power of suggestion when it is coming from the other side of the footlights. In short ï¿½ events begin to tumble ass over teakettle within w few weeks of the De La Mare Company setting up shop.
This is a cunning piece of fluff that is deceptive in appearance. Even the set is deliberately simple. A fireplace mantle stands against the flower papered wall with no actual fireplace in view. The sitting room has minimal sitting space. The set edges are masked with striped curtains. You could be in a tiny Irish theatre in the 1930ï¿½s for all you know.
The entire evening is all of a piece. The performances are not remarkable, but that is what the play calls for. Itï¿½s all about balance and appearance. It is a dance of sorts. Everyone has a part and there are no soloists, even though there was a fabulous duet that closed the first act. Even the playï¿½s conclusion, which seemed a tad abrupt served to support Lennox Robinsonï¿½s tale. Life has to change quickly to accommodate its own survival, and in the sitting rooms of small hotels in towns off the beaten track you will find as much passion and intrigue as walks the broad way in the busiest cities there are.
"a dutifully earnest production"
New York Times
"something vital is missing in this listless production."
New York Post
"keeps a smile on your face for two hours"
"Those enterprising archeologists at the Mint Theater have unearthed yet another forgotten gem."