'The Irish Curse': Ribald and Thought Provoking
At TheatreWorks, Size Does Matter – but only if you let it.
Part of the attraction of community theater is the mixing of old and new, the intrigue of watching accomplished actors endeavor in new roles as veteran performers return and inject fresh energy into a production.
The Irish Curse, a hilarious and thought provoking comedy now on stage at TheatreWorks New Milford, is a prime example of this tried and true formula. It features some of the region's finest male actors – and they act and interact magnificently.
This one-act, adult-themed play is not for young children or the squeamish. Comedian George Carlin made famous seven words that cannot be uttered on television – and those seven words, long with dozens of similar terms, are in the dialog several times over.
Still, the locker room language is appropriate to the characters and the dilemma, so the coarseness is both believable and appropriate.
The Irish Curse is not about drinking. The play centers on five men of Irish descent who are grossly under-endowed by their creator – hence "the curse." They meet weekly as a support group in the basement of a neighborhood church where they initially dodge, and then finally face and share, the scars and visceral struggle of trying to be a man when their symbol of manhood is so diminutive.
Glenn Couture is superb as Father Kevin Shaunessy, the priest who organized and conducts the weekly support group. Mr. Couture exhibits the cool control of a professional counselor who is skilled at guiding discussion without being judgmental. Yet when it is his turn to reveal his shortcoming, his confession is heart rendering and deeply personal.
James Hipp gives Rick Baldwin, a sports fanatic who claims the ability to bed just about every woman he encounters, an everyday believability. We all know the self-centered, boisterous and boastful type and Mr. Hipp plays him to a 'T.' Yet, he pivots masterfully and is crushingly humane when he articulates the realistic advice everyone in the group needs to embrace and follow.
Michael Wright imbues Stephen Fitzgerald, a gay, in-your-face NYPD officer, with blunt force. His character is tough talking and the first to fully disclose his inner feelings – and Mr. Wright is brilliant as he graphically describes the anger, pain, frustration and bitterness of his loveless life.
Jonathan Ross plays Joseph Flaherty, a gentleman and successful attorney who is adept at restraining his true emotions. He pretends all is OK in his life until he can contain the pain no more. In his monologue, Mr. Ross delivers a powerful and scathing commentary on male political leaders and their penchant to engage in needless wars as a way to prove 'whose is bigger.'
Charles Roth is fabulous as Keiran Reilly, the newcomer to the group. Reilly is about to be married and is tortured with the fear that his inadequacy will be revealed with disastrous consequences on his wedding night. He is the spark that enables the other characters to finally face their demons. Mr. Roth plays the Reilly character -- who is desperately searching for a solution to his personal hell – with brutal honesty and earnestness.
Do not assume this play is only about men afflicted by "the curse." The Irish Curse has a pertinent message for anyone – short or tall, fat or thin, black or white – that may be struggling with a perceived surface imperfection. After all, as Martin Luther King, Jr., admonished half a century ago, it is character and not appearance that really counts in this world.
The Irish Curse is directed by Robin Frome with assistance from Robyn Maitland. The production crew includes a generous underwriting by executive producer Tillie Page Laird, set design by Glenn R. Couture, lighting design by Richard Pettibone and Scott Wyshynski, and sound design by Tom Libonate.
The Irish Curse premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival with a sold-out run in 2005. It won both rave reviews and the Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting.
Playwright Martin Casella attended the opening night performance -- and the raucous and supportive crowd clearly enjoyed the TheatreWorks New Milford production.