West Ireland, St. John’s Eve, bonfire night. (Animal bones are tossed into fires for fuel – bonfires derives from bonefires.) Spirits are about. Traditional gestures ward off bad luck. Tom Grealish (Jesse Pennington) is returning to his father’s farm with new bride Bairbre (Brenda Meany). Both raised in the country, the couple had been living separately in Dublin. They met, fell in love, and married quickly. As Tom ostensibly couldn’t find work, his new wife gave up her hotel job. They’ve come home to farm.
The bride’s uncle, mill owner Matthew Conroy (Paul O’Brian), precedes their arrival. Tom’s dad Martin (Con Horgan) is unfriendly, interested only in what dowry he can secure. He needn’t worry on that account.
Other concerns abide. His son is a “layabout” and extremely naïve while Bairbre is sophisticated, even hardened. She swears she’ll make Tom a good wife, but looking at her painted face and high heels makes accepting a rough life seem unlikely. That the marriage seems ill fated is not, however, the source of Martin’s increased bad temper. He thinks he’s met her before.
You can probably guess what’s coming. The rest of the play concerns Martin blackmailing Bairbre about her past and its consequences. Narrative is filled out by celebrating neighbors, some suspicious, some supportive of the odd couple.
The Mint is a treasured showcase for obscure and unproduced theater, giving us a real look at historical social mores, often in other countries. Authenticity is paramount. Thus, while some work is illuminating and others emerge prescient, still others appear dated. Though acceptance of reformed past remains topical, this falls in the latter category telegraphing what will occur.
Brenda Meaney’s Bairbre effectively manifests below the surface turmoil and desperate hope. We actually see emotions play across her face.
Liam Forde’s simple-minded Batty Wallace is both believable and captivating every moment onstage, especially during a dance which starts gleefully, awkwardly free and morphs into something quite frightening.
Also featuring: Cynthia Mace, a credible Daniel Marconi, McKenna Quigley Harrington, in a nice turn, Ciaran Byrne.
Director Aidan Redmond does nothing to attribute characters with individuality. Stage movement is merely practical, physicality stilted. Con Horgan’s Martin is one note. In an effort, one presumes, towards producing an Irish accent, Jesse Pennington (Tom) locks his jaw looking ridiculous and barely intelligible.
Vicki R. Davis’ sets look like a high school production, as far from the Mint’s usually high standards as one can imagine.
Costumes by Andrea Varga are excellent as is Christian Deangelis’ lighting.
Micheál mac Liammóir (1899-1978) was an actor/dramatist/poet/painter/stage designer and co-founder of Dublin’s Gate Theater. Born Englishman Alfred Willmore, the self-created Irishman was nationally celebrated by his adopted country who had not a clue of the truth until after death. The Mountains Look Different was the creative “peak” of Liammóir’s ten produced plays and eight adaptations. Though picketed and accused of “immorality,” it was successful.
Photography by Todd Cerveris
Opening: Jesse Pennington, Brenda Meaney, Cynthia Mace, Liam Forde, Daniel Marconi and McKenna Quigley Harrington
Mint Theater Company presents
The Mountains Look Different by Micheál mac Liammóir
Directed by Aidan Redmond
Through July 14, 2019
410 West 42nd Street