Autumn Royal-Filial Suffocation
Thirty-something sister May (Maeve Higgins) and brother Tim (John Keating) are tethered to their aged, demanding, half demented father whom we hear clomping upstairs. Neither, it seems, has any life to speak of outside care giving. Based in County Cork, Ireland, Tim dreams of moving to Australia to surf (pantomime is priceless), though May reminds her brother he’s done so only once in his life and dislocated an arm. He thinks about having a family. Grappling with every day, May has no articulated dreams. Still, the sequin blouse she wears in scene one speaks of hope.
The siblings recall their mother’s walking out on them as children. She was a battered woman. Sweet Tim (ostensibly on the spectrum) has forgiven her, May has not. He accepts their situation; she alternately defends and denigrates the old man. After calm discussion, they conclude neither has the constitution to murder their charge.
Memories are literally surrounded by often obscure projections by Dan Scully- though defined shadows of people are effective, photo montage with wallpaper can be overwhelming; WHAT does the repetitive giant wheel and surging water represent? These are accompanied by music better suited to cinematic cataclysm than family trials. The sound issue starts early with endless repetition of tones that feel like slow drip water torture by the time the curtain goes up. You’d think we were being primed for science fiction. (Sound and music by Ryan Rumery.)
Autumn Royal is the name of a rest home to whom Da is eventually taken kicking and screaming – from which he escapes.
Simplicity of plot depends on naturalistic acting and dialogue to hold our attention and be dramatically viable. The former we see. Higgins, with whom I’m less familiar, plays the part of a conscience stricken “heavy” with gusto. Bearing the more realistic burden, her very presence is fraught. The always marvelous John Keating inhabits his character with immediacy and uniqueness. Tim’s eyes open wide with high beam emotion then, unable to sustain, dim. His acting out is charming.
I’m sorry to say, the second necessary element is too frequently lost to thick dialect, a rarity in Irish Rep productions despite the employment of a wide range of these. Frustration is omnipresent. We get the gist and feeling, but only parenthetic language making it impossible to thoroughly engage.
Physical Direction and pacing are reliably good. Characterization is distinctive. (Ciarán O’Reilly)
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Please remember to bring proof of vaccination, photo ID, and a mask.
Autumn Royal by Kevin Barry
North American Premiere
Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
Through November 21, 2021