Tag: Donna McGough

Review: Earthquakes in London (Steep Theatre)

Leea Ayers and Omer Abbas Salem star in Earthquakes in London, Steep Theatre (photo by Lee Miller)            
       
  

Earthquakes in London

Written by Mike Bartlett
at Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn (map)
thru March 18  |  tix: $25-$35  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    

March 1, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Good for Otto (The Gift Theatre)

Brittany Burch stars as Mother in The Gift Theatre's world premiere "Good for Otto" by David Rabe, directed by Michael Patrick Thornton. (photo credit: Claire Demos)          
      
Good for Otto 

Written by David Rabe
The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru Feb 7  | tix: $20-$35 | more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    

October 11, 2015 | 1 Comment More

Review: Thinner Than Water (The Gift Theatre)

Lynda Newton stars in The Gift Theatre's "Thinner Than Water" by Melissa Ross, directed by John Gawlik. (photo credit: Claire Demos)        
      
Thinner Than Water

Written by Melissa Ross
Directed by John Gawlik
The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru May 25  |  tickets: $35   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     

April 19, 2014 | 1 Comment More

Review: Coriolanus (The Hypocrites)

Jude Roche and Steve O'Connell star in The Hypocrites' "Coriolanus" by William Shakespeare, directed and adapted by Geoff Button. (photo credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis)        
       
Coriolanus 

Written by William Shakespeare  
Directed by Geoff Button
at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division (map)
thru April 23  |  tickets: $28   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

March 11, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Absolute Hell (The Gift Theatre)

Lynda Newton as Christine in The Gift Theatre's "Absolute Hell" by Rodney Ackland       
      
Absolute Hell 

Written by Rodney Ackland  
Directed by Sheldon Patinkin
The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru April 29  |  tickets: $22-$32   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

March 28, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Griffin Theatre’s “The Hostage”

Ballast Needed Along With the Blarney

 hostage1

Griffin Theatre presents:

The Hostage

by Brendan Behan
directed by Jonathan Berry
thru November 1st (tickets)

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Brendan Behan’s The Hostage is a great, hairy monster of a play. Behan wrote this tragi-comedy, with quasi-musical styling, based of his own experience as a foot soldier of the Irish Republican Army. While pro-Irish Englishmen and English imperialist pomposity receive heaping helpings of satirical treatment, it’s the IRA Behan savages the most with his robust and agile wit.

hostage2 “I was court-martialed in my absence, and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence,” says Pat (Eamonn McDonagh) about own his service in the IRA. His character comes autobiographically closest to Behan. So, Griffin Theater’s production is a huge, messy meditation on the killing paradoxes of war and patriotism.

An Irish Republican, just 18 years old, is to be executed for killing a policeman, so an equally young and inexperienced British soldier is kidnapped by the IRA and brought to Pat’s teaming bawdy house to be slain in retaliation, should the execution go through. The young British soldier, Leslie (Rob Fenton), becomes a celebrity guest of the household; he is treated to beer by Pat and his mate, Meg (Donna McGough) and pursued by the prostitutes. He even falls in love with the fresh-faced housemaid, Teresa (Nora Fiffer). The whorehouse, filled with various Johns and transgender–as well as female–prostitutes, breaks into song and dance, commenting on the action and breaking the unresolved tensions involved in trying to sort out who is truly friend or truly foe.

hostage3 While humor is the mainstay of this play, much dramatic tension is lost when vital moments within it are not treated seriously enough. The IRA Officer (Kevin Gladish) and Volunteer (Ryan Borque) who bring Leslie in are suppose to be ridiculous, yet they are played a little too close to caricature to add the necessary gravity to take Leslie’s fate seriously. Besides, dedicated assholes like this really exist. Satire allows for characters to hostage4be realistic enough to be recognizable, so that their resemblance jars us to the absurdity of well-worn, politically correct presumptions.

Rom Barkhordar’s interpretation of his role, Monsewer, comes closer to a balance between realism and caricature, perhaps because it is so close to caricature already. Monsewer, an Englishman who fancies himself a patriot to the Irish cause, pretentiously throws around his knowledge of Gaelic and plays the bagpipes badly. Heaven only knows what he is rebelling against, but his show of Republicanism is more a means to an end, than an end in itself, and it is hilarious.

The show benefits mightily from McDonagh, McGough, and Fiffer’s graceful yet rock solid performances. However, Fenton’s portrayal of the endangered British soldier is strangely flat. It’s also not clear whether his Leslie is a Cockney or a recent graduate of Eton. Given Behan’s own allegiance to the working class, such lack of consistency in dialect is a grave mischaracterization.

The cast commits itself completely to the song and dance numbers interwoven into the scenes. Still, I can’t help wondering if the Theater Building space that Griffin Theatre is using doesn’t defeat Jonathan Berry’s direction. Theater in the round might help the fourth-wall removal this play was based on, but dialogue is lost when actors have to turn and direct their address to other sides of the stage. Likewise, sightlines block action from one side of the audience, while the other side may see just fine. The result is a muddled depiction of dramatic action, not necessarily something that brings cast and audience closer.

hostage5 Behan was not interested in dramatically presenting Ireland’s Troubles in a neat and tidy package. War is messy, life is messy, and the ascertainment of who is on your side, who isn’t, and what ought to be done about is fraught with all kinds of doubts, misgivings, and just plain mistakenness. The whorehouse tenants are as loyal to Ireland’s liberty as any, yet they attempt to help Leslie get away. The police raid the bawdy house in order to save Leslie, but get him killed in the crossfire instead.

But if there is a line to be drawn in the sand here, it’s between the intended messiness of the play itself, and the messiness that results when tragic moments are not allowed to be tragic and all necessary contrast is lost. The humor of this play, its jovial ruckus of song and dance, are meant to be temporary relief to the wasteful death and mourning that surrounds these characters’ daily existence. To treat them like simple entertainment, such as we know in a night out to the theater, is to miss why The Hostage was written at all.

 

Rating: ««

 

September 23, 2009 | 0 Comments More