The Irish Heritage Theatre has created an interesting evening of theater titled THE WOMEN OF IRELAND. It consists of five one act plays of varying lengths that reinforce both the trials and the strengths of the women of Ireland. The five plays are directed by three different women who place their individual vision on each piece. Tori Mittleman directs Riders to the Sea by John Millington Synge, a classic telling of the harshness of nature piled upon the already difficult life of the women in the house. The cast does a fine job as they seem to be encouraged to make each character more of a person than a stereotypical Irish character. It moves smoothly through the exposition that takes us to learned lesson at the end.
Catherine Ni Houlihan by William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory is a less popularly known, but historically significant play. It is centered on the Irish rebellion of 1798 and demonstrates the harsh nature of war and the consequences endured by the loyal women of Ireland. It is all the more enjoyable when you understand the history, as there are symbolic characters whose meaning become richer with that knowledge. The program notes will be helpful to those not already aware of the situation. Marcia Ferguson deftly directs the ensemble and ensnares the richer language of the play. The actors rise to the challenge of making these characters both similar and different from those in the other plays and they do it quite well. My only question was the use of shadow puppets to demonstrate the history told by the mother. I think the actress was more than capable of creating the mind pictures that the poetic language of this play offers. The puppets albeit cute seemed to be more of a distraction.
Tina Brock directs the three other plays: Hearts by Lucy Montague Moffat, Isolation by Joan Ryan, and Poster Boy by Antonia Hart. All three are like Imagist poetry, they focus on a small slice of modern life. The director does a great job of keeping them focused and different. The “tiny” plays alternate with the two historical plays. The slice of modern Ireland provides both a contrast and a connection between today’s Irish women and their ancestral sisters.
The ensemble includes Katie Stahl, Mary Pat Walsh, John Cannon, Connie Martinez, Jackie Cohen, John O’Donnell, Barbaraluz Orlanda, Brian McManus, Carlos Forbes, Jack Zaferes, and Derek Gertz. They succeed as an ensemble, keeping the character both rich and different. They buy the vision of the directors and present an interesting and satisfying and short evening of solid theater.
The space on the third floor of Plays and Players is intimate, but Chris Madden and Rick Miller create atmosphere with carefully chosen pieces and quick, determined placement. Allen Clark and Andrew Chupa do likewise with the lighting, using subtle changes to quickly alter the time and place.
The Irish Heritage Theatre deserves kudos for consistently challenging their audiences. This is theater that is entertaining, but aspires to be so much more. The Women of Ireland continues through April 21st. To get further info on tickets go to irishheritagetheatre.org.