American Plays at the Loft this week

A local theatrical stalwart, Torch Players, will presentAmerican Plays—one acts, The Pushcart Peddlers by Murray Schisgal and BobbyGould in Hell by David Mamet—at the Loft this week starting tonight (Tuesday,Nov 15) to Thursday Nov 17 at 8pm nightly (I heard that is sold out for Thursday).  
The Pushcart Peddlers (directed by group founder, MauriceO’Sullivan) is the story of a greenhorn conned into buying a banana business byan older and wiser con-woman. Hilarious complications arise when the con-womansets up a similar business in direct competition. In Bobby Gould in Hell(directed by Pius McGrath) the protagonist has died and gone to Hades, where heis questioned by a devilish character known as ‘the interrogator’. The play was described by The New York Times as “funny and pungent”.
The Torch Players were formed in 1976 and the group is stillgoing strong. I saw The Communication Cord by them in 2009 and it was veryentertaining, with a talented local cast. Schisgal and Mamet are both fineplaywrights, with a raft of awards between them, so the material should beinteresting.   
Tickets for American Plays are a bargain at €10 andavailable by calling/texting 085-2085737.        

Theatre on now: 3 Chekhov Shorts/Through a Glass Darkly

3 Chekhov Shorts

Orchard Theatre Company present a compilation of three of Chekhov’s short plays-The Bear, The Dangers of Tobacco and The Proposal at The Loft tonight (November 3) and tomorrow (Friday Nov 4) at 7.30 and 7pm respectively.

These three hilarious comedies, are brought together to tell stories of love and lust after death, the depression brought about by a stagnant and loveless marriage and finally the anxiety before a proposal. However things are not always so simple we have mix ups, confusion, arguments, and a duel.

The shows have been extremely well-received on their recent multi-venue tour. Tickets are €10. Booking via Bottom Dog Theatre Company on 085 2085737.

Through a Glass Darkly

Limerick’s CentreSPACE Players will follow their recent sell-out production of Doubt with the Irish Premier of Ingmar Bergmans epic drama Through a Glass Darkly adapted for stage by Jenny Worton.

Karin (Deirde Flynn) is the central figure in the lives of her family, not least because her own tenuous grip on reality keeps everyone in constant motion around her. On an annual vacation to a beautiful remote island, tensions flare as her husband, (Mark P O’Connor) father (Noel Egan) and brother Max (Conor J Ryan) struggle over the best way to help her.

When a legacy of denial and repression boils over, threatening the future of the entire family, Karin decides that she must take command of her own destiny.
Through a Glass Darkly is a vibrant, moving adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film.

CentreSPACE Players’ production will be directed by Richie Ryan and takes place in CentreSPACE Studios, St Alphonsus Street for three performances only on tonight (Nov 3), Friday Nov 4 and Saturday Nov 5 at 7.30pm. Tickets: €12/€10; bookings on 085-1940926 or email info@centrespace.ie.

Quarry Players bring Tales of the Unexpected 2 to The Loft

Following a sell-out run last year, Quarry Players Limerick are returning to the Loft venue (over the Locke Bar) this week with Tales of the Unexpected 2, from tomorrow, Tuesday 25 to Friday October 28.

The night’s entertainment will consist of two short plays: After Midnight – Before Dawn by David Campton and The Fat Lady Sings by David Tristram.

After Midnight – Before Dawn: In this spooky tale from the dark side; six prisoners convicted of witchcraft, await their execution in a prison cell. All proclaim their innocence bar one prisoner who offers them a way out. Will they accept her offer and escape the gallows? Or will the deal prove too high a price to pay?

The Fat Lady Sings: In this hilarious farce, the Am-Dram group are back to tackle another threat to their survival in the shape of a rival group newly formed in the village. Determined to upstage them with a production of an award winning play; the 4 players pull together to devise an ingenious military style plan that doesn’t go quite to plan. When the subterfuge is discovered by the rival group’s psychopathic floor manager, he’s none too pleased. Add a few emotional complications and things look a little grim. Could this be the end for the group? Don’t be too sure as it’s never over until the fat lady sings!

The Quarry Players are an institution in the city’s theatre scene and have produced an amazing 80 productions since 1970. The group was founded in 1969, by young people with an interest in theatre. They came mainly from the Punches Cross area of the city. Under the guidance of John Gibbons, they prospered. John is still an active member and trustee. The name came from a local landmark, Gough’s Limestone Quarry. It is interesting that the stone from Gough’s Quarry was used to build the Coliseum, now The Belltable—which “continues to be the key stone of theatrical activity in the city”.

I took my mother to see one of their productions around two years back, By the Bog of Cats, and it was excellent. For an amateur company, they put a tremendous effort into every aspect of the play and it shows.

Tickets are a steal at €10 and can be booked on the Loft Booking Line on 085-2085737.

www.quarryplayers.ie

Theatre review: Five Kinds of Silence, Orchard Theatre Company, at The Loft

I went to see the new production by Orchard Theatre Company, Five Kinds of Silence, at The Loft in Limerick on Saturday night.

Written by Shelagh Stephenson, it was originally an award-winning radio play before being adapted for the stage. It was a chilling drama about a family living under the threat of constant physical and emotional abuse. The play opens with patriarch, Billy, speaking about a dream where he was a dog. But he’s a different kind of animal and that becomes obvious when he’s in his own house. The prevailing smells there, the ones he likes best, are fear and blood.

He runs his household with military precision and an explosive temper. His wife, Mary, and adult daughters, Susan and Janet, are terrorised daily. And when they snap under the pressure, they kill him. But will they ever truly be free? What follows is a careful study of domestic abuse through the eyes of both abuser and victims. This is explored through monologues, re-enactment and interactions with the authorities. Billy grew up in a home where the dominant feelings were rage and pain. You feel sorry for him in that way but hate him for his act of respectability while controlling and punishing his family.

Mary blames herself for marrying him and staying; her memories of him are tied up with the scars she sees in the mirror. The fear he provokes in his Susan and Janet is so pervasive, they’re afraid he’s alive somewhere outside their dreams. They are relieved but yet they struggle to adjust to life without his influence. The play deals with abuse in detail, which is hard to stomach. It’s also a comment on how society deals with it. The five kinds of silence of the title are that of the four members of the family and the world at large. The women wonder if they are invisible because people around them don’t seem to see, or question.

Stephenson’s writing is in turns lyrical and evocative: “The moon was out. I could smell it; ice, white, metal smell. I could smell the paving stones, wet, sharp. The tarmac road made my dog teeth tingle. It was aniseed, rubber. And the street lamps, studded with smells they were, studded with jewels, wood, metal, meat and the stars pierced my dog nose like silver wires…” But also simple, matter of fact: “You look so sad and I will make everything better for you. I don’t want you to stop. You’re the only lover I’ve ever had. I pull you down towards me. I wake up. I’m sick over the side of the bed. How could you do this to me, Dad?”

The staging was simple; just a box seat and coat stand. Characters who weren’t speaking often just turned their backs to the audience, which also had the effect of chastisement i.e. standing in the corner. The score by Johnny Greenwood, was subtle but conveyed atmosphere and emotion through muted rhythms.

The acting was excellent. An intense Darren Maher (Billy) was frightening and frenzied as the adult Billy—barking orders and insults. As he begins to have epileptic fits, he communicates the sensations in words, then physicality. But he was also convincing as a frightened child. The audience could see the moment when he irrevocably changed; one minute he was refusing to cry no matter how he “CRACK!”s he was given and then he made it clear that when he grew up “I’m goin to kill you”. I don’t know if the playwright had one of the most famous brutes in literary history, Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist, in mind when she was naming the patriarch? Billy had the same swagger and menace.

Mary (Stephanie O’Keeffe), Susan (Karen Fitzgibbon) and Janet (Amy Kinlon) all played extremely difficult roles. They were timid and not expressive at the outset. The daughters are encouraged to express feelings, only they don’t understand what feelings are.

Amy Kinlon is distrustful of everything at first, but eventually lets her anger, her emotions, out with obvious effort. By the end, she seems at peace although she hints that she just shows what people expect. Karen Fitzgibbon gives a restrained performance, not believing that any good can come of talking about the past. She delivers one of the most heartbreaking monologues of the play, describing a dream where she is enjoying the sexual abuse and then feeling disgusted and guilty. That confusion and turmoil constantly flickers across her face.

Stephanie O’Keeffe seems the most traumatised. Her passive personality first attracted Billy and he has broken her down to nothing over the years. When she describes the one time she tried to leave him only to be coaxed home to have her ribs broken, she seems immune to the horror of it. That emotional numbness never lifts. You get a sense that it might never go.

Stefan Barry and Mel White played the various authority figures adequately. I was mildly confused as to which guise White was in at times—lawyer or psychologist or prison warden. The way she asked questions of the victims seemed brusque, given the subject. But that’s a minor qualm. The Loft venue is intimate, which suited the play, but the pub underneath can be a bit noisy.

Orchard Theatre Company, and director Simon Thompson, should be commended for bringing the issue to the fore. The proceeds went to Limerick-based Adapt Services, which provides shelter and help for women who have experienced abuse. Amalgamotion Theatre Company’s superb Walking Away, based on testimonies from Adapt, had a similar impact. Five Kinds of Silence is a powerful exploration of what goes on behind too many closed doors all over the world and one family’s mission to break the cycle.

Five Kinds of Silence is currently touring:
April 4: Five Lamps Art Festival, Dublin.
April 6-7: O’Keeffe’s, Clonmel.
April: 13-15: Camden Palace Theatre, Cork.
April 30: Nenagh Arts Centre.

Promo video

More info on www.orchardtc.com