How often do we take for granted that we have the Kennedy Center within our midst. What other theater could entice Galway, Ireland's Druid Theatre to trek to DC for a week and perform three plays in repertory by Irish playwright Tom Murphy.
When I first heard the Kennedy Center would be presenting a TRIPLE-HEADER, that is three shows in one day, I was frothing at the mouth for this opportunity. I was not alone. There were many other theater patrons who desired to undergo this Irish experience and tickets for all three plays started at a reasonable $66.
The Eisenhower Theatre was the host for CONVERSATIONS ON A HOMECOMING at 1 p.m., A WHISTLE IN THE DARK at 4 p.m., and finally FAMINE at 8 p.m. This was the one time where one did not mind paying the $22 fee to park in the Kennedy Center garage since one would be there for around ten hours (that's only $2 an hour!!)
I have to admit an affinity for Irish playwrights. I've seen two wonderful producitons at Dublin's famous Abbey Theatre. One was the magnificent TRANSLATIONS. Two Druid actors were in that production: Aaron Monaghan and Rory Nolan. My daughter Britt even did a semester at Dublin's Trinity College where we witnessed a class on Beckett.
So I was greatly anticipating this troika of Murphy plays.
What I found so fascinating was watching actors perform three different roles in one day.
I was espcially impressed with Marty Rea who reminded me of Irish actor Pierce Brosnan (anybody remember the televison series "Remington Steele"?)
In CONVERSATIONS ON A HOMECOMING, Rea returns to County Galway during the 1970's after a ten year stint in New York trying to make it as an actor. He returns to his old haunt of a typical Irish pub named "The White House" which had a huge photo of President Kennedy on the wall. What takes place is a small reunion with old friends where a dreams are discussed.
In A WHISTLE IN THE DARK, Rea was living in Coventry, England in the 1960's, with an English wife, having to deal with his father and brothers coming to visit for an extended stay. Rea gives an amazing performance where he is forced to choose between his wife and his family.
Finally in FAMINE, the villages of Gianconnor in the west of Ireland face starvation during the potato famine in 1846. Here Rea plays a Priest who cannot understand why the Church is not able to provide for his parishiners. It is here one learns that the famine was preventable. There was food in Ireland that was exported. The Irish were not allowed to own land and not allowed to work without a permit. They were also not allowed to live in cities. Yes, it is depressing but terrific theater.
The director of all three plays is the highly acclaimed Garry Hynes who founded the Druid Theatre in 1975. She has also been the Artistic Director of The Abbey Theatre but is best known for her Tony Award production of THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE in 1998.
She has a superb cast of actors to work with but it is her direction that makes the three plays so successful.
There is one other actor who I must extend kudos and that is the amazing Niall Buggy. His biography takes almost a half page of the Playbill. He can even be seen the film version of the hit musical "Mamma Mia". He was in both FAMINE and A WHISTLE IN THE DARK where his characterization of Dada, the father of the family, will live with me forever. At the end of the play, after his sons had been involved in a bar fight, he leaps on the kitchen chair extolling how proud he was of his children. He was so powerful, I was fearful he would have a heart attack. When a tragedy occurs and one of his sons is accidental killed, he laments he wasn't at fault since he was standing on a chair. There was no tear shed over the death of his son. If you ever get a chance to see him perform, do not miss it.