Saturday, March 22, 2008

Haunted by guilt

In a rather spur of the moment decision, the Resident Offspring and I took in the Liffey Players' production of Shining City this week.

The Liffey Players are a community theatre group whose mandate it is to produce Irish plays. Last March we took in their heroic production of the courtroom drama Bloody Sunday: Tales from the Saville Inquiry, and we were quite curious to see how they would tackle this much more contemporary play.

Shining City, by Conor McPherson, is a ghost story of sorts, in which the recently bereaved John begins therapy sessions with Ian, a former priest and newly minted therapist, to help him deal with the terror and guilt he feels at having seen his wife's ghost in their house. Ian has phantoms of his own which haunt him, not the spectral sort, but the fact that he has called off his relationship with Neasa, the mother of his young daughter, for whom he left the church and whom he has now abandoned to the charity of his resentful and judgmental brother and sister-in-law.

There are only four characters in this play, and only two ever appear onstage at one time. They all have issues of guilt stemming primarily from infidelity and the barriers they have erected between themselves and their partners, and none of them are living in a place they can call home. John stays at a bed and breakfast to escape the spectre of his dead wife, Ian sleeps in his office, leaving Neasa alone at his brother's place, while Lawrence, the hustler whom Ian picks up one evening, is indeed homeless in the standard sense.

The Liffey Players do an admirable job with this play, giving performances that are above the usual community theatre level. I found bits of the therapy sessions went on a trifle long with the weepy parts , but generally George Smith, who played the part of John, was quite credible as the guilt-ridden widower.

One scene, in which Neasa confronts Ian about his responsibiity to her and their daughter, did ring rather false, but the RO and I both agreed that the problem lay more in the dialogue itself than in how it was played.

I'm glad we made the impromptu decision to see this play, and I will look for future productions by this community theatre group.


Dale said...

I wonder if they've done any of Martin McDonagh's plays? Sounds like a good time.

Mr. McDonagh's written some doozy plays and just directed the film In Bruges. My favourites of his are The Pillowman, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Somebody put on The Pillowman here recently, Dale, but I'd have to check which theatre troupe it was. Heard it was good though.