An unfulfilled "Life"
Hugh Leonard's "A Life" is an important play in the Irish canon, not brought to its full potential in the Irish Rep's current production.
By CARAID O'BRIEN
I was really looking forward to seeing Hugh Leonard's "A Life" at the Irish
Repertory Theater. I had watched its cast of stellar actors excitedly
crowding around their director Charlotte Moore backstage at Symphony Space
during the Bloomsday Festival, and I imagined something exciting might be afoot.
What's more, the female lead is Pauline Flanagan who originated the
role of Blaize Scully in Marina Carr's Irish tragedy "Portia Coughlan" one
of the last great plays of the 20th century. Also I was looking forward to
seeing Fritz Weaver on stage, having been a fan of his work since he appeared
opposite Joseph Buloff in that legendary production of Arthur Miller's "The
Price" in 1980.
Originally produced on Broadway in 1979, the Tony-nominated "A Life" joins
Hugh Leonard's "Da" as an important play in the Irish canon of modern drama.
The life in question is Drumm's, a cranky civil servant, who in his spare
time gives walking tours of Dalkey, the coastal Dublin suburb where he lives.
He calls it "a town, in the Catholic sense the Protestants call it a village" with
"600 persons per public house." He has just been told that he has six months
to live. When his doctor suggests a hospital stay, Drumm refuses "only a
fool dedicates himself to medical science before death."
|Written by: Hugh Leonard.|
Directed by: Charlotte Moore.
Cast: Fritz Weaver, Pauline Flanagan, Jarlath Conroy, David Costelloe, Paddy Croft, John Keating, Heather O'Neill, Derdriu Ring.
Chronicling the relationship between Drumm, his wife and their on-again,
off-again best friends, Leonard acutely depicts the small-town aesthetic where
grudges are held and remembered for years. Intermittent flashback sequences
lay down the psychology for the quartet's lifelong complicated relationship
that extends far beyond their shared cups of tea. Reflecting upon his life
and his friends and his many mistakes, Drumm prefers to lay blame at any door
rather than his own.
Weaver's portrayal of the unloveable Drumm, while studied, makes you want to
kill the character before his six months are up. The cast also includes Paddy
Croft and Jarlath Conroy, who, like Weaver and Flanagan, are both acclaimed
veteran performers. Their affection for Drumm in his younger or older
incarnations is baffling, with no clues readily apparent in either script or
onstage characterizations. The younger players, David Costelloe, Heather
O'Neill, John Keating and Derdriu Ring, mimic their older selves well although
they play their roles with an exaggerated naivete forsaking the sexual
tensions and passions of youth. Overall, the performances play to the
audience and lack the sense of intimacy Leonard so exactingly captures in his
The staging intermingles the two time periods without a lighting change or
other theatrical divide, undercutting the potential magic of revealing memory
on stage. Linda Fisher's costumes for the older characters, however, perfectly
capture Irish grannies of a certain era. Although reveling in the
cantankerous intellectual sarcasm that anyone with an Irish uncle will
appreciate, this play about missed opportunities, while enjoyable, is in
itself a bit of a missed opportunity in its present incarnation at the Irish
|JULY 26, 2001|
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