BWW Review: THE ONION GAME at BUFFALO'S IRISH CLASSICAL THEATRE is a WICKED RIDE
Another wholly dysfunctional family has entered the literary realm in a new play by Bryan Delaney and Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre gets to show them off in all of their wretchedness. Dublin-born playwright Delaney has been honored this year and named ICTC's Playwright in Residence. Best known to Buffalo audiences for his plays the The COBBLER and THE SEEDBED, Mr. Delaney has been in town for the World Premiere production of THE ONION GAME, a wicked black comedy set in rural North County Dublin. The results are mostly satisfying for it's revelatory nature and unexpected twists.
Onion and his wife Pearl ( no subtlety there) literally run an onion farm, along with their children, Ogie and Milly. Onion is a would be author, who aches to get out of the farming business, and by all appearances has the full support of his wife. But things are never as they seem, and practical jokes blur with the lines of reality in this story full of deceit.
Delaney keeps the audience guessing as each character is at first an enigma of sorts. Pearl is quirky and is endlessly bedazzling every surface of the home with glue and jewels, Onion is a rough around the edges farmer who thinks that his personal life story will make a great book, Ogie is a lazy manipulator who has a life goal of being a pimp, and young Milly is nearly invisible to everyone. Onion is unlikable for his genuine lack of concern for everyone around him, and in his quest to achieve greatness uses his family at any cost. He bribes his son to abet his evil doings, dismisses his daughter at every turn and tricks his wife whenever possible. All this done with tongue in cheek humor so that the audience is also left guessing whether there are any truths left in this household. Delaney's script is often captivating and darkly amusing, finding unfathomable comedic situations in the possible death of a child or a terminal illness. But by the end of the second act the resolution takes too long, secondary endings are fuzzy and some editing would have made a more satisfying conclusion.
Director Greg Natale has a fine cast with which to work. Stan Klimecko is perfectly cast as Onion, the conniving head of the family. Klimecko has the gritty appearance of a working man, short on social graces but high on personal aspirations. He finds the right amount of glee in his evil doings to make him a character you love to hate. Kelly Meg Brennan brings a motherly and loving portrayal to the role of Pearl, but her cunning nature is often mistaken as naivete. Her transformation by the second act proves that she is someone to be reckoned with and Ms. Brennan finds all of the comedy in the juicy part. It's no wonder she seeks escapism in adding fake jewels to every surface of her home, giving the appearance that life is beautiful inside the troubled home.
Louie Visone is having a grand romp as Ogie, the colorful 20 year old who hams up a role that is written for a self assured con artist. But all con artists are eventually found out, as the men of this family come to realize. Visone struts like a peacock and is utterly convincing as the spoiled rotten young son. Child actor Ava Schara does a fine job as young Milly, who herself has hopes to be a writer. She has been cast away by every one, and despite her bizarre behaviors, fails to register on her family's radar.
As usual, Irish Classical has wonderful character actors at their disposal. Ray Boucher is hilarious as Jacques, the hired hand who is entrusted to manage the farm while Onion pursues his literary career. David Lundy plays the roles of the Delivery man and Publisher. Mr. Lundy is a gem in both of the these small but pivotal roles.
Natale deftly uses the large theatre in the round stage and finds a steady pacing that leads to the play's dark climax. Comedy appropriately melds with melodrama, when needed. But when darker issues pervade, Natale helps the cast focus with razor sharp precision. Fight Director Adrianao Gatto choreographs the fight scene well, but it felt shoe horned in and longer than was necessary.
David King has designed the set so as to give as many vantage points as possible. His use of video clips during the scene changes were effective is suggesting the oddities and compulsions that Pearl brings to the family that is at it's core unhinged and based in treachery. Delaney has developed characters that at first glance may seem common, but their inner demons and often depraved sense of right and wrong make them complex and disturbing. With mother and father figures that have a fractured marital life, it is inevitable that the children will be led down an equally unstable path. Add a twisted sense of humor and Delaney proves that his creative mind bodes well for future plays.
THE ONION GAME plays at Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre through March 29, 2020. Contact irishclassical.com for more information.