How things are in Glocca Morra

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Reviews -

The Laugh of the Ir­ish, per­formed by the Ar­den Play­ers Teatro Paraguas Stu­dio, March 13 Just in time to usher in St. Pa­trick’s Day, the only time many Amer­i­cans even think about things Ir­ish, the Ar­den Play­ers present The Laugh of the Ir­ish, a pro­gram of three Ir­ish come­dies. The plays — In the Shadow of the Glen by John M. Synge (au­thor of Play­boy of the West­ern World); The Dark Lady of the Son­nets by Ge­orge Bernard Shaw, a play Ir­ish by birthright more than sub­ject mat­ter; and The Match­maker by John B. Keane (whose play The Field was made into a film by Jim Sheri­dan in 1990) — of­fered a real Ir­ish smor­gas­bord. As com­edy, the re­sults were mixed.

Synge was a well-known fig­ure of his day, and his plays about Ir­ish peas­ant life cre­ated a lit­er­ary genre that had not ex­isted be­fore. His use of “Hiber­noIr­ish” was a means for him to bridge the Gaelic lan­guage with English and cre­ated a wider au­di­ence for his work. Al­though In the Shadow of the Glen was once at­tacked as be­ing “a slur on Ir­ish wom­an­hood,” what came across in the Ar­den Play­ers pro­duc­tion was some­thing odder, quaint in its folksy roots but not par­tic­u­larly funny.

The story of a woman stuck in a ru­ral cot­tage in an iso­lated glen had its charm, es­pe­cially with the ap­pear­ance of ac­tor Kerry Ke­hoe, orig­i­nally from County Kerry, who played the Tramp. The play was helped in great mea­sure by the le­git­i­mate brogue of­fered by Ke­hoe, al­though his de­meanor, down to the cos­tum­ing, made him ap­pear more a rogu­ish passerby than a tramp. His charm was so ex­alted, com­pared to the act­ing and per­sonae pre­sented by Mary Woods and Ar­gos Mac­Cal­lum as Dan and Nora Burke, the feud­ing cou­ple vis­ited by this “tramp,” that the nar­ra­tive was thrown out of bal­ance. Hav­ing an even less ex­pe­ri­enced ac­tor, Galen Hutchi­son, squirm­ing in his cos­tume and strug­gling to present him­self as a randy Ir­ish lad didn’t help. Still, as an ex­am­ple of ac­tual Ir­ish play­writ­ing, it made for an in­ter­est­ing en­counter in Santa Fe. To­day, an Amer­i­can never could have got­ten away with such stereo­typ­i­cal lan­guage or sit­u­a­tions. It was the Ir­ish equiv­a­lent of Dog­patch.

Ge­orge Bernard Shaw, Ir­ish by birth, made his mark in Lon­don and was not par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in rep­re­sent­ing things Ir­ish in his pro­lific writ­ings. In­deed, The Dark Lady of the Son­nets, writ­ten in 1910, is a short play about Shake­speare and the “Dark Lady” char­ac­ter in his son­nets. Here, com­pared to the de­lib­er­ately coun­tri­fied lan­guage of the Synge play, is the highly flu­ent, play­ful, and bril­liant writ­ing of Shaw. Tad Jones, as Shake­speare, and Deborah Den­ni­son, the “Cloaked Lady” Shake­speare mis­tak­enly as­sumes to be his mis­tress, wait­ing in a dark cor­ner for a tryst, of­fered hu­mor of the more gal­lant and lit­er­ate kind, and both per­for­mances were the most as­sured and skill­ful of the evening. As an ex­am­ple of Ir­ish the­ater, the choice of this brief episode was a lit­tle odd, but as the­ater, it was the most suc­cess­ful part of the evening.

The Match­maker by John B. Keane (first pro­duced in 1975), is a con­tem­po­rary por­trayal of the same sort of ru­ral Ir­ish life as that por­trayed in Synge’s play. Ke­hoe, as the Match­maker, once again pro­vides a charm­ing cen­ter to the piece, which has more in com­mon with a Neil Si­mon play than Synge’s rougher nar­ra­tive. Pre­sented as a se­ries of let­ters read by a cast of mar­riage-hun­gry Ir­ish who are seated on stage through­out, there was a dead­en­ing lack of drama and nary a mo­ment of phys­i­cal action. To watch the char­ac­ters watch their scripts was, without a doubt, to wit­ness the op­po­site of di­rec­tion (at­trib­uted to Deborah Den­ni­son). Af­ter 45 min­utes, one wished the ad­vent of e-mail had ar­rived be­fore this play had ever been writ­ten.

— Michael Wade Simp­son “The Laugh of the Ir­ish” con­tin­ues at Teatro Paraguas Stu­dio, 3221 Richards Lane, at 8 p.m. Fri­day and Satur­day, March 19 and 20, and 2 p.m. Sun­day, March 21. Tick­ets are $15, $12 for se­niors and stu­dents; for in­for­ma­tion, call 920-0303.

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