‘Waiting for IKEA’ has a heart

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How it’s New York: The show by Georgina McKevitt and Jacinta Sheerin is part of New York’s 1st Irish Festival.
Laoisa Sexton and Georgina McKevitt

Laoisa Sexton and Georgina McKevitt

How it’s Irish: The show was presented at the Dublin Fringe Festival, and was a big hit there.

You’ll wait in vain for the Ikea reference in Georgina McKevitt and Jacinta Sheerin’s play “Waiting for IKEA,” a two-hander in the 1st Irish Theatre Festival. There’s  onlya quick reference to furniture in flat packs early on in the show,. Note to playwrights: could we please, please stop with the cute titles referencing another play, that have little bearing on the play itself? The title “Waiting for IKEA” suggests the play that follows will be a kind of commentary on bourgey Dub life. It isn’t. Thanks to Roddy Doyle and others, there are lots of plays out there about relatively uneducated but warm and funny people in poor parts of Dublin. It’s a little puzzling as in almost all cases this is not the actual background of the writers or performers.

But, what it is, is effective on its own, and well worth seeing, particularly with luminous performances from both Laoisa Sexton and McKevitt herself (they were equally wonderful together in Sexton’s own “For Love” two years ago). It’s the story of two girls, friends for life, in a poor section of Dublin. One of the girls, Chrissie (Sexton) becomes a teenage mom, and the other, Jade (McKevitt) gives up some opportunities to be there for her. When Jade decides to move on with her life and go with her new boyfriend to Australia (it’s a bit of a spoiler, but it’s the main plot of the play), the two women need to negotiate their histories and make peace with the separation.Actually, it’s really Chrissie who needs to make peace. She seems to have no support system at all outside of Jade; there’s a line about her dad kicking her out, but other than that the entire lack of family is puzzling. She’s the sweet, irresponsible foil to Jade’s down-to-earth smarts. Early on, we learn that Chrissie routinely forgets to pay the electric bill, spending money on things like lamps instead. She’s a “tanorexic” who says things like

“I want to get you on that sunbed, you’re very pasty looking.”

A scene where the two girls reminisce fondly about their kinda juvy days shoplifting is hilarious.

A Dublin D.J. is heard between scenes. At one point I leaned over to my Irish friend, Michelle Woods, to ask “is he speaking English?” I know a lot of Irish slang, but if you’re not a native, do get the glossary they hand out at the beginning. I know what a magpie is, and could figure out “up-the-duff” since the girls were talking about pregnancy, but “screamer” for homosexual was new to me.

Georgina McKevitt and Laoisa Sexton

Georgina McKevitt and Laoisa Sexton

Writing wise, there are few surprises and a few missteps– a scene in which Jade talks on the phone to her unseen boyfriend is a particularly clumsy exposition dump, as is a scene where we see her open a college acceptance letter after Chrissie has left. We already know she’s not going to college, and we’ve already sussed from the exams both girls are taking: Chrissie’s, an odd assortment, Jade, straight up English and maths– that Chrissie will get in.

However, it’s a sweet and pleasant journey along the way. Sexton shows great vulnerability in everything she does. She’s a sweet confident teenager boasting of how into her her boyfriend is– not realizing that

 

“He’s gorgeous, and such a great dancer”–

are not really traits of character–

then breaks your heart as a young mother at  her wit’s end. McKevitt plays the less flashy role but comes into her own when Jade finally loses her temper, showing us the fears of inadequacy, mixed with determination, that drive her.

All of the scenes take place in front of Chrissie’s house, laundry drying on the lines. Director Alan King also designed the set. McKevitt is credited as costume designer, and there are some nice choices in pyjamas, hoodies and jackets that show us what age the girls are, where we are. While pace occasionally drags,  King brings out some nice subtleties from the actors, and a real sense of connection between them.

The show has two more performances, tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow at 9 p.m. Visit 1stirish.org for more information.

 

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Copyright 2014 New York Irish Arts
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