1st Irish Review: Setanta Murphy of a Tuesday Night

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HOW IT’S NEW YORK:  The reading took place in the AmericanIrish Historical Society’s beautiful townhouse on 5th Avenue, just across the way from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

HOW IT’S IRISH:  Writer-actor-director Garrett Keogh was born in Dublin, and his play is about one of the city’s “auld ones”. It’s part of the 1st Irish Theatre Festival.


Honor Molloy and Joseph Goodrich joined forces to bring us this review of a reading of Garret Keogh’s play Setanta Murphy. 

 “The play’s strongest moments simply let us observe the sad and all-too-human situation of one old man raging against the dying of the light.”  


Here’s hoping a full production is coming soon!


On the evening of September 11th, a capacity crowd filled the upper hall of the American Irish Historical Society for a reading of Garrett Keogh’s play Setanta Murphy, which was presented by the AIHS and the Origin Theatre as part of this year’s 1st Irish Festival.

The sold-out house was not disappointed. Keogh’s play took us far from the mirrored walls and the mellow light of the Society’s building on East 80th and 5th Avenue. We were transported to a run-down Georgian house in central Dublin, followed by a hospital room and then a nursing home. Serious stuff, leavened with typical Dublin humor.

The play is a two-hander. Keogh read the part of Paddy, an 89-year-old man facing the loss of his independence. Luke Griffin read the titular role, Paddy’s nephew and reluctant caretaker.

 Paddy is a handful:  opinionated, difficult, a spirited curmudgeon used to doing things his own way. But now his sisters are gone and the aging bachelor is living alone. Luke does his best to keep Paddy’s telephone and radiators working, but when illness lays the old man low, his burden increases exponentially. The play shifts into a minor, mortal key at the end of act one which is carried through acts two and three. Paddy survives pneumonia but isn’t strong enough to go back to his old life and Luke finds him a place in a nursing home.


Setanta Murphyis an affectionate and accurate portrait of one of Dublin’s auld ones. Irish as the piece is in its details and rhetoric, it deals with a universal scenario:  the trials of old age and the indignities visited upon the elderly by an overworked and often maddening healthcare system.

Garrett Keogh

The play’s strongest moments simply let us observe the sad and all-too-human situation of one old man raging against the dying of the light. Both Keogh and Griffin read their roles well, catching every nuance of the pain and humor of the play. Before the reading began, Keogh jokingly pointed out that he wasn’t quite 89 years old yet, and we’d have to bear with him. He needn’t have worried; we hung on his every word. 

Griffin, too, distinguished himself by catching Setanta’s very mixed emotions about his lovable but ornery relative. At one point Setanta talks about the need to “laugh through the pain”. There was plenty of laughter during the reading but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few tears were shed as well.

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Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts