BWW Review: In Revisiting the Troubles of Ireland's Past, Corrib Theatre's QUIETLY Provides a Warning for Our Future
One summer day in 1974 in a pub in Belfast, Ian and Jimmy's lives changed forever. They were both 16, and because Ian was Protestant and Jimmy was Catholic, they were on opposite sides of the violent conflict that ravaged Northern Ireland during the 1960s to 1990s. Now, at age 52, the men arrange to meet in the same pub where a horrific event occurred. After 36 years, can they see each other as anything but enemies? Is any amount of forgiveness possible? These are the questions at the heart of QUIETLY, Owen McCafferty's haunting play currently running at New Expressive Works care of Corrib Theatre.
The title could not be more apt. As directed by Gemma Whelan, this play is very quiet. It opens and closes with the bartender (played by Murri Lazaroff-Babin) texting with his girlfriend - a conversation (projected onto a screen) that alludes to concerns about their safety as Polish immigrants to Ireland. It makes it clear that the end of the Troubles didn't mean an end to all troubles.
Between the quiet beginning and the quiet ending is a quiet middle. It's an uneasy quiet punctuated by occasional bursts of rage as Jimmy (Ted Rooney) stumbles through a meeting with the person he holds responsible for his lifetime of anger and sadness, while Ian (Tim Blough) tries to free himself from being defined by something he did as a teenager. Their conversation is full of starts, stops, and missteps as the two struggle to figure out how to even start listening to each other.
The performances by all three actors are excellent. Though you could hear a pin drop through most of the play, the tension is deafening. Rooney's performance as Jimmy is especially heartbreaking - every time you look at him, you can see the extent to which he has been consumed by emotional pain.
Although QUIETLY was published six years ago and is about Northern Ireland, it's hard not to see chilling parallels to what's happening in the United States today. All you have to do is watch the evening news to find evidence of the polarization that's driving a wedge in our society and causing us to see even our neighbors as enemies. This play provides a grim warning about the consequences of demonizing others and about how long the healing process can take.
QUIETLY runs through May 6. More details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Adam Liberman