Young Dubliner Conor McPherson's "The Weir" at Dublin's Gate Theatre was a surprise and a joy. This 100 minute performance (no intermission) was a deliberate dramatic mix of horror and humor set in a bar, the best play set in a bar that I've seen since Saroyan's "The Time of Your Life." With its mix of small town jokes and tales of the supernatural with Pinter-like pauses, "The Weir" demands a first-rate cast to keep the emotional roller coaster moving.
Ian Rickson directs Jim Norton as the feisty Jack. Brendan Coyle as the responsive bartender, Kieran Ahern as the innocent, Dermot Crowley as the sleazy realtor and Hilary Reynolds as the lovely matron in distress. The play really moves, and it is moving. The dialog is earthy and, therefore, totally believable, even when relating the unbelievable. There are surprises in this play, but more than a bit of human warmth too. It runs until September 12, but it may be extended. It opens on Broadway in 1999.
Before the theater, try the Trocadero
Restaurant in Dublin's city centre which has been serving fine food since
1956. Its fresh fish and steaks on a $16.00 pre-theater menu can't
be beat. The wine list is good, and the coffee is better. The
theater and film posters against the red walls are eye-catchers.
Photo Caption: Dr. Bob Blackwood at theAndrew's
Lane Theatre where
"The Mother of All the Behans" was playing.
Photo by Diane Blackwood.
At Dublin's Andrew's Lane Theatre,"The Mother of All the Behans," adapted by Peter Sheridan from the book by Brian Behan (the brother of Brendan) with additional material from Rosaleen Linehan, is a one-woman performance by Eileen Pollock as Kathleen Behan. As a aged woman in a nursing home, she addresses the audience as if they were an interviewer. And what a powerful woman she was.
Pam Brighton, the director, hands us a collection of anecdotes, songs, and witty commentary by a woman who experienced the rising of 1916, the imprisonment of relatives and friends, the death of Mick Collins and her own son, Brendan, extreme poverty, and, at least briefly, the glare of publicity. Kathleen Behan's spirit and courage stand out through all of her troubles.
She was a feminist, a socialist and a good Roman Catholic. She was the center of a memorable and uplifing theatrical experience. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland helped fund the production which will run at least through the end of September at different cities throughout Ireland.
Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan" at the Abbey Theatre was last done at the Abbey in 1972. Siobhan McKenna's great performance as Joan was a benchmark until Patrick Mason, the artistic director, took on the challenge with Jane Brennan as Joan. When you hear a young woman with an Irish accent take on the might of the British empire, she gets your sympathy in a way no American or British actress can. It also speaks well of Mason that he keeps the play constantly at a high pitch.
Bad productions of "Saint Joan"
can sound like a high school debating team; good ones can cause you to
re-think nationalistic positions and to treasure the complexity of the
Performers, Colm Quilligan and Philip Judge, in Dublin's Literary Pub Crawl.
Photo by Bob Blackwood
Jameson's Dublin Literary Pub Crawl
is not to be missed. The tour guides are really actors--Colm Quilligan
and Philip Judge.
Starting at the Duke, off Grafton Street, you are given an introduction to the works of Brendan Behan, James Joyce, some music hall tunes, a touch of Beckett's "Waiting for Godot, a re-creation of Oscar Wilde, and a taste of James Plunkett's "Big Jim" radio play.
In the course of the evening, you will encounter three other pubs. We enjoyed The Long Hall, where rebels planned a rising; O'Neill's Pub, a hangout for Trinity College writers; and The Old Stand, a hide-out of Mick Collins. Different pubs are often featured and sometimes two crawls are held almost simultaneously, though they all start at The Duke. Inquire there for information.
Photo Caption: Michael Foley of Doyle's in Dingle is the kind of educated and adventuresome young Irish chef who attracts travelers with discriminating palates from every country.
Photo by Bob Blackwood.
On the way to Galway's Art Festival, a stop at Doyle's Restaurant, Bar and Townhouse on John Street in Dingle, County Kerry, was the culinary highlight of the trip. Young Michael Foley is the type of adaptive and responsive chef that sophisticated diners can appreciate. The restaurant was packed with gourmets from England, Sweden, Germany and the U.S.
Foley's boneless rack of Kerry lamp with kidney tartlets in tarragon was memorable. His seafood--such as the crab Ventry appetizer with crab, ripe pear and ripe avocado--was heavenly, particularly when followed by another fresh seafood dish, such as the pan-fried swordfish with tapenade crust with red pepper coulis. Foley and Doyle's manager, Sean Cluskey, make it a must-stop on the Dingle peninsula.
The wine list and the desserts at
Doyle's were much more than adequate. Bed and breakfast accomodations
at Doyle's were spacious and extremely comfortable at a cost of under $100
Photo Caption: Traditional Irish musicians at the Mariner's Pub in Dingle.
Photo by Bob Blackwood
Our brief stay limited us to a performance of the Peepolykus Theatre Company's "I Am a Coffee." Cal McCrystal directed a series of related skits with roots in Monty Python and theater of the absurd. David Sant, Javier Marzan and John Nicholson made me laugh, and, quite often, that is enough. The show will be on the road for some time.
If your tour of Ireland is in the planning stage, be sure to include Dublin and Galway's theater and Dingle's cooking in your itinerary.
Gallarus Oratory (old cairn structure) in the
Slea Head Area of the Dingle Peninsula.
Photo by Bob Blackwood
Dr. Bob Blackwood was a Professor of English and Communications Media at Wilbur Wright College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. He serves as a film critic for Chicago's "Near North News" and is a staff reporter for "Fra Noi," the Italian-American newspaper. His mother's people were from Galway. He honeymooned in Ireland in 1998, his third trip in 10 years.
Photo Caption: Ashford Castle where the film, The Quiet Man was filmed. Photo by Bob Blackwood