The unbeatable lightness of Behan
The Irish Rep makes the most of Brendan Behan's Vaudevillean romp "The Hostage" about a captured British soldier who's to be executed in the morning and the women captors who love him.
By CARAID O'BRIEN
The Irish Repertory Theatre's 23rd production is Brendan Behan's vaudeville-esque treatise on language, politics and love "The Hostage" originally written for 150 pounds of drinking money in the 1950s.
The hostage in this story is a young British soldier kidnapped by the IRA in retaliation for the upcoming hanging of an 18-year-old IRA member by the British army. (A member of the IRA since he was 8, Behan was jailed for terrorist activities at age 16 in this play he satirizes both sides of the divide.) The hostage is stashed away in a rundown whorehouse for the night as the hour of the hanging approaches.
|Company: Irish Repertory Theatre.|
Written by: Brendan Behan.
Directed by: Charlotte Moore.
Cast: Terry Donnelly, Jacqueline Kealy, Johnnie McConnell, Barry McNabb, Fidelma
Murphy, Anto Nolan, John O'Callaghan, Denis O'Neill, Ciaran O'Reilly, Derdriu
Ring, Ciaran Sheehan, Erik Singer, James A. Stephens, Steven Xavier Ward and
Related links: Official site
Although supplied with packets of cigarettes and treated gamely by the bawdy-house inhabitants, all of whom attempt to seduce him, the soldier is to be shot in the morning if the hanging of the IRA man is not stayed. The chambermaid and the hostage, the only truly young and reasonably innocent members of the household, fall for one another in a short and believably impassioned affair all the while morning approaches.
The theater, a beautifully kept 140-seater on 22nd Street, is a perfect spot for this work from Ireland its lobby smells like the Grafton Street Laura Ashley store in Dublin.
Founded in 1988 by producing/directing team Ciaran O'Reilly and Charlotte
Moore, the company is well funded, supporting a staff and a large cast of
salaried actors no small feat without the heavy government funding that
buoys equivalent theaters in Ireland. Their work is superbly produced with
30,000 audience members a year. No surprise then that a role at the Irish
Rep is a highly prized credit among New York's most talented actors.|
The lead actors in "The Hostage," Erik Singer and Derdriu Ring, play the soldier and chambermaid with sexy sweetness.
The boarding house occupants are the more than usually eccentric gaggle of
hookers, pimps, missionaries, johns, screeching landladies and the like.
Directed by Charlotte Moore, the action occasionally drops into the audience
to great effect. The bottom-baring Russian sailor deliciously embodied by
John O'Callaghan flirts with lucky stargazers at the top of the show. Mr.
Mulleady in an exacting Hagenesque portrayal by actor-producer Ciaran
O'Reilly dumps missionary pamphlets on top of the audience. Occasionally the
bawdy melee falls into song and jig never so beautiful as when uber-tenor
Ciaran Sheehan lets loose his golden voice.
Originally written in Irish, Behan's script is the show's biggest star, embracing a dozen literary and theatrical styles from the burlesque self-parody to polemical diatribe. His writing, like his life, alternates between the
intoxicating and the intoxicated. The odd smattering of the Irish is dropped
into this translation it would be nice to hear even more. The pace of the production is somewhat rushed for a leisurely drunken elegy and many of the
actors are prone to shouting when they should be speaking. If all moments
were as slowly and as fully realized as the young lovers scenes, however this
production of Behan's "The Hostage" would be perfect.
|DECEMBER 2, 2000|
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