‘The Hostage’ opens Friday at theater in Church Hill
CHURCH HILL — Brendan Behan’s “The Hostage,” directed by Pat Patterson, is the final production of Church Hill Theatre’s 2018 Season. “The Hostage” will open on Friday, Nov. 2, and run through Nov. 18, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling 410-556-6003 or online at churchhilltheatre.org.
A mid-20th century classic, the play, as a New York Times review notes, “demonstrates how tyranny masquerades as liberty and how humanity is trapped in the bone-crushing embrace of political expediency.” Despite its serious themes, “The Hostage” is filled with music (from bagpipes to ballads), bar room humor, and genuine affection amongst the down-and-outers who inhabit a shabby Dublin boarding house. While there is not a single curse word in the script, the play contains adult themes and some violence, so is not recommended for elementary school students.
Set in 1960 Ireland, between the glory days of Easter Uprising and the horrors of the Troubles to come, Irish nationalism flourishes but is without firm direction. Pat and Meg, who run an informal brothel in Monsewer’s house, reluctantly agree to house a British hostage seized by the IRA in hopes of saving a condemned Irish terrorist. But the ensuing mix of part-time militiamen, prostitutes, and nostalgic patriots leads to confusion and misunderstandings. Behan obviously found the whole situation tragically absurd — and responded by using comedy to mask the pain. With onstage piano accompaniment, actors sing and dance as the spirit takes them, using music to reveal their emotional conflicts.
Christopher Wallace plays Pat, the landlord; Christine Kinlock plays his consort, Meg; and Herb Ziegler plays Monsewer, the Anglo-irish owner of the house. Max Hagan portrays the hostage, Leslie Williams. Residents include two prostitutes (one mostly retired), played by Natalie Lane and Michelle Christopher; a seedy civil servant and an improbable social worker, played by Howard Mesick and Hester Sachse; and a couple of promiscuous men of fluid gender, played by Michael Moore and Kellan Paddy. Maya Mcgrory plays Teresa, the young and innocent housemaid. An extremist IRA officer is played by Paul Briggs, assisted by an eager volunteer played by Eamon Murphy. Troy Strootman is a Russian sailor, perhaps the only one in the house with money in his pocket.
Julie Lawrence, the show’s music director, and Phil Dutton take turns playing Kelly, an onstage presence throughout the play, providing piano accompaniment for songs, a friendly place to sit, and even cash when the beer runs out.
Patterson’s production team includes producer Sylvia Maloney, set designer Michael Whitehill, choreographer Cavin Moore, costumer Juanita Wieczoerck, lighting designer Douglas Kaufmann, dialect coach Sally Borghardt, photographer Steve Atkinson and sound designer Kat Melton. Stage manager Sheila Austrian and her assistant Speedy Christopher work behind the scenes. Randy Welch, the bagpipe consultant, recorded music especially for the show and provided a full piper’s kit for Monsewer.
Special two-for-the-price-of-one tickets are available for the opening night show on Friday, Nov. 2, by calling the box office at 410-5566003.
A Russian soldier (Troy Strootman, center) is attended by two of the prostitutes living in the Dublin Boarding House. Michael Moore plays Rio Rita (left) and Natalie Lane is Collette (right).