By 1878, the Irish felt participation in British Parliament was a temporary bridge to home rule. Factions continued to stir up the country in the name of nationalism.
Ballybeg, County Donegal, Ireland. A man of a certain age, Christopher Gore (John Windsor-Cunningham), has spent decades at the Irish family manse away from a Kent, England upbringing. Mild mannered and sympathetic, he’s respected by locals. Son David (Ed Malone) is naïve and sweet. He has agrarian skills but shows little practicality outside that realm.
Andrea Lynn Green, Ed Malone, Christopher Randolph
Flirty ‘maid’ Sally Cavanaugh (Andrea Lynn Green) takes care of The Lodge under Margaret O’Donnell (Rachel Pickup) who arrived when she was 14 and has, in her late 20s, evolved into housekeeper extraordinaire, adopting its owners’ cultivated manners. Both men, breaking tradition and social mores, are in love with and want to marry her. Both, we curiously learn, put her in a maternal role.
The Gores are local gentry, while Sally and Margaret are village people. Sally’s boyfriend, Con Doherty (Johnny Hopkins), back from proselytizing in England, is involved in under-ground, violent, political action. In fact, a major landowner has just been brutally murdered. Margaret’s father, Clement O’Donnell (Robert Langdon Lloyd), is the perpetually drunk, extremely talented choirmaster of their local church. Music bookends this play as if to say some things hold fast no matter what.
Ed Malone, Robert Langdon Lloyd, and Stephen Pilkington
Into this subtly volatile scenario comes cousin, Richard Gore (Christopher Randolph), and his valet, Perkins (Stephen Pilkington), on their way back to further studies of natives on the Aryan Islands. Pompous and egotistical, the ethnologist displays bigotry many of his profession shared in its early days. People are specimens defined by physiology and social status. Locals take offense.
The plot is slight, politics subtle. Suggested threat implied by the appearance of Con and John comes from left field, landing awkward and ill considered. It doesn’t help that the men have nowhere to go and nothing to do onstage that makes sense. When Margaret admits she’s in love with David, like him, we neither believe it nor, later, her ultimate choice.
Still, the piece would’ve been more credible had its actors given their characters adequate thought. Almost none of them seem to know who they are or what they actually feel making performance all surface. This is unlike most other work by veteran Director Charlotte Moore.
There are exceptions. Robert Langdon Lloyd’s pixilated Clement O’Donnell whooshes in like a brash wind, lighting up the stage, bringing everything into sharp definition every moment he’s there. Christopher Randolph (Dr. Richard Gore) dispenses disdainful frowns, twitches and comments from a manifestly whole character. Ed Malone (David Gore) delivers innocence as if second nature.
Alas, though not one of Friel’s best, The Home Place is a better play than its production.
Christopher Randolph, Stephen Pilkington, John Windsor-Cunningham, Ed Malone, Rachel Pickup, Gordon Tashjian, Andrea Lynn Green, Johnny Hopkins
James Noone’s evocative Set is skillfully configured to show indoors and out including a well employed, half-hidden area behind trees. Both garden and dining room are artful. ‘Love the pointillist walls. Michael Gottlieb’s Lighting Design plays adroitly to hour and mood.
Costumes by David Toser reflect time, place and economics with aesthetic appeal.
Also featuring Polly McKie, Logan Riley Bruner, Gordon Tashjian
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Rachel Pickup and Ed Malone; John Windsor Cunningham and Rachel Pickup
The Home Place by Brian Friel
Directed by Charlotte Moore
Through November 19, 2017
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street