BWW Review: DANCING AT LUGHNASA at The Everyman
Your sense of home lives in the boundaries of childhood memory. Aspects of the larger world are distilled to smaller moments that define each person's life. The intricate patterns of past and present, memory and reality choreograph the story of Everyman's DANCING AT LUGHNASA, Brian Friel's 1991 Tony-award-winning play.
As an adult, Michael (Tim Getman) transports the audience to three weeks in his childhood when as a boy of seven he lived in the mythical town of Ballybeg with his mother and four aunts on an impoverished farm in 1936 Ireland. There's wisecracking Maggie (Megan Anderson), romantic Agnes (Annie Grier), fragile Rose (Labhaoise Magee) and prim Kate (Bari Hochwald). Uncle Jack (Bruce Randolph Nelson) returns from far and away where he left his heart and most of his Irish habits, having served as a missionary at a Ugandan leper colony. Michael's beautiful, resilient mother Chris (Katie Kleiger) and his father Gerry (Danny Gavigan), a charming drifter, literally and figuratively dance their own dance of frustrated love in the midst of this family of outcasts.
This is a group effort that relies heavily on the actors' ability to connect with each other and draw the audience into the story as if they were remembering it themselves. Here, Everyman's excellent ensemble excels making you laugh as they bond together and cry when they break apart. We all recognize these personalities, these life stories. They are timeless and transferable.
This play is less about Irish poetry and more about the physical toughness born out of necessity and stubbornness. The Irish cannot help but put a creative spin on the hardships of life. It's a blessing and a curse to be able to laugh, cry and dance all at once.
Along with the gorgeous rustic set by Yu-Hsuan Chen, Director Amber Paige McGinnis creates a wonderful atmospheric theater experience. She draws out the essence of each character and the quality of joy and melancholy of late summer that is both a setting and a metaphor. Each character is unique and also uniquely bonded to the others. Each heart aches for its own secret desire but shares the blood of a wild Celtic spirit that longs to just break free and live in raucous revelry.
Catholicism versus paganism, rustic versus modern, tradition versus change: conflicts swirl around Ballybeg like mist swirls around that other mythical town lost in time, Brigadoon. They are the last outposts on the way to a future not everyone can navigate. Sometimes, like the five sisters, all you can do is dance like yesterday doesn't matter and like there's no tomorrow. In this case, only the audience knows for sure.
DANCING AT LUGHNASA continues its run now through Oct. 7th at the Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street. For more details and ticket information, call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org.