How It’s New York: It’s part of the 1st Irish Festival, Irish theatre for New York audiences
How It’s Irish: Fishamble is a Dublin company, who have brought powerful, emotional work to New York before.
This review was in Irish Examiner last week– it’s one of my favorite plays in the Festival so far!
Tuesday September 20, 2011
A Rose Grows Up In Ballymun
By Gwen Orel
It doesn’t scan as well as “Spanish Harlem.” But in Sean McLoughlin’s luminous play, Noah and the Tower Flower, making its New York debut via Dublin’s Fishamble Theatre in the 1st Irish Festival, love and trust peep through the cracks of poverty. Like the girl in the Ben E. King song, that’s a beautiful thing to see.
The two-hander, which won the 2007 Irish Times Best New Play Award, and the Stewart Parker Trust Award, presents Natalie (Mary Murray), a recovering “napper” (that’s heroin addict to you and me), and Noah (Darren Healy), who just got out of “the ‘Joy” (Mountjoy jail) for “stupidity” (i.e., bashing in his dad’s car with a hammer). He chats her up in a bar.
He’s funny and complimentary; she’s cagey but amused.
When he learns she lives in a Tower (as run-down and dangerous as the Projects in Harlem), he names her a “Tower Flower.”
After he offends her by complaining about “nappers,” she accuses him of being a “spoofer” (liar) about having been in jail.
That spat makes them open up, and after leaving she returns to invite him to her “gaff” for a few “bevvies.” (There is a helpful glossary in the program, but if you don’t know what “gaff” is by the end of Noah, you aren’t paying attention).
Back at her place, they bond some more, draw closer, drink a lot.
On the surface, there’s little plot to the 80-minute play. But there’s a lot going on underneath. She’s damaged but not despairing; sharply defensive and gooey soft.
He’s as eager to please as Tigger, bouncing to give Robert de Niro impressions, or an imaginary Oscar-winning speech. McLoughlin’s language is slangy, sharply song-lyricky riffs.
Director Jim Culleton, Artistic Director of Dublin’s Fishamble Theatre, brings out the heart and the laughs in the simple story.
Whether looking at the abused woman who still loves her husband (and vice versa) in The Pride of Parnell Street, or the forgotten seniors in Pat Kinevane’s unusual drama Forgotten, Fishamble’s work brings out the big drama in small human moments.
Just as moving as any of McLoughlin’s language is the awkward slow dance to Elton John (“Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters,” which references Spanish Harlem, in fact) that ends the fourth scene (there are two prologue scenes). It’s a junior high school dance. With a lot more at stake.
Murray, so good in Sebastian Barry’s The Pride of Parnell Street, which Fishamble brought to 1st Irish two years ago, throws her heart into her husky voice.
When she admits she invited him back because he was nice to her, and because “I fancy the balls off ye,” she drops in pitch on “balls,” making it emphatic and hilarious.
And the dialogue loops around so she gets to repeat it twice more. She’s compelling and endearing.
Healy’s Noah is a revelation. He’s all arms and legs, often splayed, like Art Carney on the Honeymooners.
Like Norton in that show, he’s got an innocent mischief. He pats down his bangs nervously, and barks a laugh that interrupts his own words.
But his exuberance could turn violent. We, along, with Natalie, heard about his violent episodes. When tries to win her back, he must us .
What you think will happen after the play ends depends on your point of view. But you’re sure to have one. And that’s a winning situation for everyone.