Sublime ensemble gets their drink on
|Strawdog Theatre presents|
|Conversations on a Homecoming|
Review by Katy Walsh
Four friends reconnect over drinks. Sounds like a pleasant evening, right?! Not the way Playwright Tom Murphy tells it. Murphy uses a guy’s hometown return as the impetus for a drunken sh#tstorm. As the drinks go down, the tension goes up and the gloves come off. Murphy’s characters grapple with politics and religion. And just below those broad topics are the real issues; resentment, jealousy, regret, disillusionment. Murphy sets his tale in Ireland in 1974. It could just as easily be Oak Lawn in 2012. Conversations on a Homecoming is a sobering saga about being stuck in the in-between. Past and present. Traditional and modern. Reality and delusion. Hope and cynicism.
Director Jonathan Berry expertly paces this boys’ night out. The sublime ensemble gets their drink on with authentic flourish. The trash talk turns surly after a pint and then cruel after a double. It’s like watching a health class film on the evils of alcohol. At the center of the relational clash is Michael Dailey (Tom) and Adam Soule (Michael). Dailey impressively goes from congenial to bitter resentment as Soule earnestly tries to rekindle their friendship. Soule’s facial expressions show a man stunned that people change over ten years. This cast is so genuinely interacting that I hold my breath as not to reveal there is in an intruder at their private party. The entire cast is fantastic: charming Jeff Duhigg (Junior) as the inebriated crooner, blustery Ed Porter (Liam) as the edgy outsider, wistful Anita Deely (Peggy) as the hilarious peacemaker, and the twinkling Janice O’Neill (Missus) as the resigned bartender. A big nod goes out to Dialect Coach Adam Goldstein for bringing the Irish to Chicago. These accents are pure perfection.
Within Murphy’s story and Berry’s direction, the honest revelations blister and bubble yet they never pop. The entire play takes on this surreal quality. Was it a drunken night of life-changing disclosure? Or was it just a drunken night? It’s this overarching feel of uncertainty that makes me want to go back to the pub tonight and check on these amicable characters. What happened to these characters the next night, in 1984, 1994, 2004? Conversations on a Homecoming will leave you wanting more. It’s a powerful dialogue that keeps running through my mind.
Conversations on a Homecoming continues through September 28th at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 4pm. Tickets are $28, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online through OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Strawdog.org. (Running time: 90 minutes, NO intermission. Download this production’s study guide here.)
Photos by Chris Ocken
behind the scenes
Jonathan Berry (director), Mike Mroch* (set design, production manager), Sean T. Mallary* (lighting design), Kali Story (asst. lighting design), Allison Amidei* (costume design), Heath Hays (sound design), Adam Goldstein (dialect coach), Justin Snyder (tech director), Allison Raynes (stage manager), John Kelly (master electrician), Chris Ocken (photos).
* = denotes Strawdog company member