John Patrick Shanley’s rural Irish rom-com sneaks up you, firstly by being more com than rom — no, scratch that, firstly by being more dramedy than — no, scratch that, firstly by being a proper bit of Irish black comedy. You’ll have to forgive the backtracking; the final scene is a long, long way from the first, which gives us an old man and his son, returning from the funeral of another old man who went to war with God after his baby boy died without the grace of baptism. Sorry — went to war with the crows, blasting holes in the sky with his shotgun. These are good Catholic folk, who don’t easily make direct war on the divine. On their nearest and dearest, however… So right away, Da is telling his boy that he takes too much after his dead mother, and so he’s not sure about leaving him the family farm, and besides, said family farm is missing a crucial bit of land right up front, which belonged to the recently deceased and has now passed to his daughter, which daughter has hated our boy ever since he pushed her to the ground when they were kids. So yeah, there’s your glimmer of rom on the horizon, but it takes its sweet time in arriving. The good news is that the time is sweet: nobody here hates anyone else, mind you, and they manage to be fastly funny in the face of awful tidings, and lovelily lyrical about the land that sustains them, in proper Irish fashion. More people die, life slips by, and finally, after a lot of nonsense involving a metal detector, boy and girl sit down to share a beer in a farmhouse kitchen and have it out. (When she asks if he’s noticed she’s a woman, he shushes her, “I see you in church!”) It surely helps that our lead couple — and the old-timers who support them — are deeply familiar with one another; Lamb’s calls them “two of the region’s leading theater couples.” Even when they’re fighting, they’re having fun up there. And about that long, long way: if the first scene inspires a wincing sort of smile, the final one is all head-shaking grins.
Ongoing until Sunday, February 18, 2024