Normal (Bewley’s Café Theatre, is about our attitude to autism, its social and family effects. And it raises the question of what exactly is normal. That’s a lot to ask in 50-minute play, but author Caitríona Daly has produced a taut, dramatic, splendidly acted piece, that raises many questions, but that inevitably only touches the surface of the problems involved. Helen (Caoimhe O’Malley) has had a two-year relationship with autistic 25-year-old Gary. She’s visited by Gary’s mother Phil (Karen Ardiff) in his absence. There’s a lot of uncomfortable talk before they get down to the business of the Helen/Gary relationship. For Helen, it’s a loving relationship with occasional problems; for Phil it’s been a lifetime of love, worry and social difficulties. Helen is defending a situation that has arisen from her own personality problems. Lacking the presence of Gary, the play finally resolves itself into two long speeches in which the two women sum up their lives and feelings. Not ideal, but it still has dramatic power thanks to the rapport between the two performers. And it produces an excellent think-piece for Bewley’s return to the refurbished, noise-insulated Grafton Street venue. Runs until April 28.
Power: Caoimhe O’Malley in Normal