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Review: THE ONION GAME at Irish Classical Theatre

A Wicked Ride

Review: THE ONION GAME at Irish Classical Theatre

NOTE: THE ONION GAME ran for one week prior to being shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic. It returns to the Irish Classical Theatre stage through June 26, 2022. The following review originally appeared in March of 2020 and has been edited to reflect new casting changes.

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 named ICTC's Playwright in Residence and is best known to Buffalo audiences for his plays the The COBBLER and THE SEEDBED. His newest play, THE ONION GAME, is a wicked black comedy set in rural North County Dublin and 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, regularly 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 perfect 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.

New cast member Johnny Barden is more than a welcome addition, as the petulant son Ogie. His wiry frame and surly attitude make him the perfect con artist.

But all con artists are eventually found out, as the men of this family come to realize. Barden's presence on stage is always self assured in a smarmy way that is perfect for the role of the spoiled rotten young son. Bennett Goldberg plays the youngest child 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 parts of the Delivery man and Publisher and he 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 lasted longer than was necessary..

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 June 26,2022.




From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, Artpark... (read more about this author)


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