Jeff Smith 12:01 p.m., March 29
Dancing at Lughnasa
Early in Brian Friel's memory drama, Maggie holds what might be a butterfly in her hands. Then she releases it so fast that young Michael doesn't see it fly. "Just one quick glimpse," she says, "that's all you ever get. And if you miss that..." When Michael asks what it was, Maggie changes tone. Nothing, she says; "It was all in your mind." Dancing at Lughnasa is Michael's attempt, years later, to remember the late summer of 1936, when the five Mundy sisters of poor Ballybeg village, county Donegal, were still together: when they got their first "wireless" radio, and when their Uncle Jack returned from Africa after 25 years of having gone native. Michael knows what followed (circumstances tore the sisters apart, and they went their sad, separate ways). In Michael's memories of a "time when things changed too quickly" for his eyes, "atmosphere" will be more real than "incident." In effect, the play is Michael's attempt to do the impossible: to hold a bygone butterfly in his hands. Though opening-night performances were a bit uneven, under Esther Emery's sensitive direction New Village Arts captured the play's atmosphere -- the intrusion of pagan energy into traditional stolidity: a combination of longing and partial release (Friel has been labeled the Irish Chekhov, and Lughnasa's his "five sisters"). Joshua Everett Johnson and Kristianne Kurner head the cast as Michael, the soft-spoken narrator, and as stern Kate, a schoolmarm at work and at home. Amanda Sitton gives Maggie, a love-smitten realist, all the emotional weather of a late-summer day. Many of the cast's most arresting moments, on Nick Fouch's rustic, half-indoor/half-outdoor set, and wearing Mary Larson's beige, humble costumes, come in ensemble scenes, when each becomes a note in a complex score, now harmonic, now cacophonous.
Worth a try.
When: Ongoing until Sunday, March 30, 2008
- Sundays, 2pm
- Thursdays, 8pm
- Fridays, 8pm
- Saturdays, 3pm & 8pm