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Terry Donnelly

Crackskull Row – There’s a Play In There Somewhere


Crackskull Row, Dublin, 1999. “May Eve, a night when the veil between then and now, the living and the dead is slim.” Rasher Moorigan (Colin Lane), “the spit and the shite” of his dead da, Basher (Colin Lane), is our sometime memoirist/narrator. Having been released from a thirty year prison incarceration, he recalls the awful family entanglements that lead up to a crime which, though horrific at face value, was not at all what it seemed.

son ma

John Charles McLaughlin, Gina Costigan

Playwright Honor Molloy takes us episodically back and forth between his ailing mam’s present fantasies (Terry Donnelly as Masher Moorigan) and the past (1966) by way of Rasher’s younger self (John Charles McLaughlin) and her younger self (Gina Costigan).

The present: Masher lives in filth. The house is dilapidated and ill kept. Daniel Geggatt’s Set Design is at the same time eminently artistic and so genuine looking, one practically itches. Unpaid bills account for services being shut off. Whatever’s needed is handily disinterred from under couch cushions.

better old ma and son

John Charles McLaughlin, Terry Donnelly

When a young woman emerges from the fireplace to scold Masher and clean up a bit, we assume it’s a neighbor or her daughter. Not so. (The girl’s talk of Buddhism, massage and the dangers of sugar seems like it comes from another play entirely.) When a young man comes to fix the electric and water (total non sequitur), we observe his bare feet and resemblance to her teenage son. Masher’s mind strays far tonight conjuring past times with the help of spirits we rarely recognize until well into dialogue.


John Charles McLaughlin, Colin Lane, Gina Costigan

The past: Da, Basher Moorigan, is a mostly out of work fiddler and drunken bully. Also, one assumes, at least early on, lyrically charming. An attractive, all-but-single mother, Masher earns the living not provided by her husband. Selfish and narcissistic, she manages to be consistently well turned out while her boy symbolically has no shoes. Go-go dancing morphs to prostitution. Teenager Rasher is appalled for more than the obvious reasons. One night, Basher purloins several wonderfully incongruous items and comes home violent.

The most frequent issue with early efforts is an author’s inability to edit. Every tangent seems to shine with promise. One gathers that this play was pulled from the bottom of playwright Honor Molloy’s trunk. It shows. This is not to say there isn’t excellent writing here or a compelling story, but rather that intermittent weeding and additional on-subject writing would make the piece immeasurably more successful.


Colin Lane, Gina Costigan

Both Terry Donnelly and Colin Lane inhabit their characters. Specific physicality is as real as in-the-moment emotion. Donnelly is believably obstreperous, unstable and seductive. She moves as if weighted by beanbags. Though Lane’s accent is a bit difficult at first, one grows acclimated. His portrayal of the pie-eyed Da (Basher) is as proud, nuanced and credible a drunk as I’ve ever seen. Lane reeks of masculinity allowing us to understand Masher’s sustained presence. When these two are alone on stage, the play comes particularly alive.

Gina Costigan and John Charles McLaughlin should watch, listen and learn. Though both young actors have moments, they overdo what their senior peers execute with grace, pith and authenticity.

Director Kira Simring does a splendid job of utilizing the set, beginning with adult Rasher’s prologue appearance at an EXIT door. The character’s on and off the stage positioning gives us sense of time and place. Both a small stairwell and the theater aisle are used to effective advantage. Small business is canny. Outbreaks are mostly kept to plausibility. Intimacy is beautifully depicted.

Fight Choreography by Unkle Dave’s Fight House reads completely false.

Photos by Michael Bonasio
Opening: Colin Lane, Terry Donnelly

the cell presents
Crackskull Row by Honor Molloy
Directed by Kira Simring
Part of Origins 1st Irish Festival 2016
Workshop Theater (312 West 36th Street at 8th Avenue)
Through September 25, 2016