How it’s New York: This play, featuring Michael Mellamphy, was performed in Queens, as part of the 1st Irish Festival.
How it’s Irish: Written, directed and starring Irish artists.
We may not be fortunate enough to know the likes of Michael Mellamphy, an award-winning actor from County Cork, well enough to say hello to. Many of us are, on the other hand, in a position where we’re aware of the existence of such characters as John Murphy (or Sean O’Murchu, depending on who is referring to him), the individual Mellamphy plays in “The Cure,” a one-man piece, written by Conal Creedon (“The Trial of Jesus,” ‘” Be To The Father,” “Second City Trilogy”) and directed by Tim Ruddy (“The International”).
Mellamphy’s portrayal of John Murphy, a washed-up, broken-down and burnt-out survivor of Cork’s Christian Brothers schools, is a welcoming natural force, brushing aside any stereotypical ideas we might have of an Irish man who likes a pint, and banishing them forever, in a drawer filled with inflatable shamrocks and curly green wigs.
Murphy has had more ups than downs, more outs than ins, and more sore heads than we’d want wished upon an army of worst enemies.
He is a veteran of the Cork social scene; he knows his streets, the sounds, the smells. He feels the heartbeat, suffers the pain and breathes the air of the country’s “second city,” its ghosts coming to life around him, when all he wants is a pint at opening time, to “cure” him of his self-inflicted ills.
The minutes leading up to those tavern doors opening however, are excruciatingly slow, and as seconds creep agonizingly by, he’s accosted by demons from his youth, in the form of other, more fortunate schoolpals, and a dreaded Christian Brother, who, much as he is wont to admit, perhaps moulded him into the man he became, or perhaps, should have become, today.
Mellamphy, for an hour, is John Murphy, and we, the audience, are right there on the streets of Cork City with him.
“The Cure,” Creedon’s one-act, one-man play, was featured last week as a one-off performance as part of the “throwback” series of the 1st Irish festival, where popular shows from previous years make welcome returns.
A sold-out crowd at the New York Irish Center, a wonderful intimate venue in Long Island City, Queens, laughed along with Mellamphy’s descriptive memories of his youth, his parents, his grandfather’s sense of smell, jobs for life, the pubs, the bakeries, the docks of Cork, yet felt for his disappointments and failures at the same time.
Here was a man who harmed few people in life, seemingly worked hard, tried his best, but wound up anywhere but where
he wanted to be. Even on the one morning we meet him, he is prevented from getting to his desired destination, a bar, any bar, for that one pint, that cure, that would solve his ills and return his good fortune. It is a drama with equal parts comedy and dread, where the seemingly everyman Murphy, is perhaps not as we thought.
He’s more complex, flawed of course, but good-hearted, intelligent, sarcastic and kind. Not the usual components one would associate with any of the town’s drunken characters or characteristic drunks. He’s also a man who is desperately in need of “the cure,” and whether he gets it or not, well, that’s for Messrs Mellamphy, Creedon and Ruddy to tell you.