Eighty-five year old Davey McGee is an ailing pensioner tended, in his small, Belfast, bungalow, by working class caregivers Frances and Loretta. The only pleasures he has left are The Daily Mail, betting on horses, and the music of his hero, Frank Sinatra. Though Fly Me to the Moon (after Sinatra’s hit song) revolves around Davey, we never see him.
Loretta is late. Having helped their charge to the bathroom, Frances tidies up, singing along with a walkman. When her friend arrives, the two natter on about their families. Frances is angry at the school expelling “our Jason” for simply buying and selling. That he’s progressed from alcohol and cigarettes to illicitly copying DVDs seems a good business decision to the proud mother. Loretta is concerned about her unemployed bricklayer husband and “our Kirstie,” who wants desperately to go on an unaffordable class trip to Euro-Disney. She dreams about money.
After repeatedly knocking on the bathroom door without receiving an answer, the girls panic. Neither is trained for the circumstances. Conjecture, fuss and complete lack of logic precede Loretta’s finally checking to discover “wee” Davey dead on the floor with a nasty bruise on his head where he must’ve hit it falling. Did he even have next of kin? The two suddenly realize how little they know about him. On the verge of telephoning the doctor, Frances comments, “It’s a pity the poor old bugger dyin’ on a Monday. Now he won’t get use of his pension.” You can practically see a light go on over her head.
Why shouldn’t they have the funds? The ATM doesn’t know he’s dead, nor does the government. Loretta is appalled but eventually convinced, drawing out 120 quid as she has every week like clockwork. Following lunch, the necessary call is once again broached and once again postponed when Frances discovers yet another possible source of money the corpse can no longer use. Think how their lives might change!
As the day goes on without Davey’s being declared deceased, the two ricochet like pin balls between confusion, fear, guilt, and hope. Incoming phone calls and a nosey neighbor provide ample opportunity to get the whole thing over with, but every hour seems to compound the difficulty of the situation. Innately wily Frances references a multitude of television detective shows for incremental solutions, but “what-ifs” fill the room with argument. They might, at this point, be accused of more than theft! Both characters are torn. The unlikely “solution” leads them inadvertently to learning about their patient and a sweet attempt to carry out those of his last wishes with which they can live.
Author Marie Jones has delivered a handsomely written and highly original piece of work. Once you step outside probability and into black comedy, absurdity and momentum are irresistible. Details add credibility to and empathy with the character’s limited lives. Frances and Loretta are distinctively defined. Their relationship is pricelessly realized. Brief moments of poignancy add richness. The play is, however, just a bit long.
Director Marie Jones has a skilled eye and incisive ear. Timing couldn’t be better. Physical gestures are quirky and nuanced. The small set is used with fluidity and imagination. Agitation is practically infectious. Laughter is evoked often and naturally throughout the piece. The actors are totally focused.
Tara Lynne O’Neill (Loretta Mackey) creates a wonderfully real character, maintaining the semblance of a rabbit caught in headlights without ever feeling one-note. Thoughts flicker across her face, shy, advance, duck and furrow her brow. Innocence and anxiety pervade. Francis’s influence is shown to be strong, but not blinding. Speaking of Loretta’s husband, O’Neill elicits compassion.
Katie Tumelty (Frances Shields) is marvelous. She embodies Francis’s amorality but makes it seem organic to circumstances and doesn’t inspire judgment. The actress manifests gestures as sharp as her character’s thinking. A scene where she’s made to act as if Davey might, getting herself into a wheelchair and to the bathroom without the use of one arm and one leg frozen by a stroke, is sheer Lucille Ball.
Photo credit: Vinnie Loughran
Opening: Tara Lynne O’Neill, Katie Tumelty
2. Katie Tumelty, Tara Lynne O’Neill
3. Katie Tumelty
Green Shoot Productions presents
Fly Me to the Moon
Written and Directed by Marie Jones
With Tara Lynne O’Neill and Katie Tumelty
59E59 Street Theaters
59 East 59 Street
Through September 30, 2012