How it’s New York: It was part of Origin’s 1st Irish festival here in NYC.
How it’s Irish: Irish productions of Irish plays set in Ireland at an Irish theater festival!
“Inside Danny’s Box”
Aoife Williamson is a standout. she played the mischievous materialistic superficial sensual take no prisoners role to perfection. She should have been up for a Best Actress Award from 1st Irish in my opinion.
A mother and son, a young couple , and an American priest being us on a tale of consuming obsessed modern ireland versus catholic church obsessed other Ireland, with love, lust, and of course the secret inside Danny’s box along the way. To be honest, the secret was pretty easy to figure out early on, but the hijinx that takes place to get there are worth seeing the show for.
Representation of old Ireland paired with the new – Catholicism versus consumerism. One standout scene was when Williamson’s character returns from ostensibly shopping for a Versace knockoff dress, but ends up finding shelter from the rain in the church across the street from the shop. She claims not to know what was going on in there but just joined the line of people shuffling towards the top of the room by default and then got a white piece of cardboard shoved into her hand. Her immediate response is to return it as she would the Versace knockoff, so she inserts it into a ziplock bag to do just that. There’s also quite that you do with regard to the priest being an American. It is mentioned more than once that he is foreigner and the worst kind of all an American. This was really funny for me as an Irish person in the audience as we tend just like to laugh at outsiders in general. And maybe more so because we are outsiders in America. I’m not sure how the American audience took that they were quite as heartily as I was and perhaps as Derek Murphy was when he wrote it.
Maria Deasy (Best Actress Nominee) and Spirit Award Winner, played the mother who represented old Ireland evolving into new, in that in her youth she had been in love with what might’ve been the only exotic or interesting man in the village (spoiler alert) – the American priest (the Thornbirds was a very popular novel in 1970’s Ireland), but seems to have evolved (?) into an affair with (another spoiler alert!) a youthful creative type. The run is over, but who knows, you could be lucky enough to have it get a second run elsewhere. It is hilarious with pitch perfect plot twists, and the pace is just right.
“The Morning After the Life Before”
Writer and narrator, Ann Blake and actor, Lucia Smyth entered stage with great presence. Why who rightfully won best actress for this role what’s a standout. the story focused centered around the gay marriage referendum in Ireland in 2013, (the first country in the world to legalize it both I and the writer was very proud to announce), and the relationship between the writer, Blake, and her wife. Smyth played an assortment of roles while Blake narrates the story. An interesting staging twist was that she introduced Smyth as herself at the beginning of the show and every now and then they would revert back to Lucia and Ann with some witty aside, about, that is not helping this story, stay on point, or some such. It was a blend of acting and storytelling.
With just a few basic props they managed to tell their story. Particularly noteworthy was their visit to the Civil Partnerships office at Dublin castle where by simply turning a kitchen table on its side facing the audience with Smyth behind the table to play the judge like administrator. Her hilarious movement behind the “podium wrong word” showed her strength as a performance artist. No words were required to take us into this bureaucratic office at a time of immense change in this former stronghold of the Catholic church.
A winner at the Montreal fringe in 2017 and the lovely cupcake handed to the audience in 1st Irish as part of the wedding celebration are two additional reasons you should see this great production should it get another run.