BWW Review: Immigrants, Traditionalists Clash on the Pitch in HURL, at Corrib Theatre
The central question of the current immigration debate in the United States is: "Who gets to be an American?" The practice of detaining people at our southern border and the countless YouTube videos of white people telling people of color to "go back to your country" suggests that for many, Americans have to be white.
This story, currently playing out here at home, is nothing new. White people have a long history of trying to keep their countries and their cultures to themselves. The Irish version of this struggle is the conflict in Charlie O'Neill's HURL, now running at Corrib Theatre.
In the play, a multi-ethnic hurling team, made of immigrants, aspiring immigrants, and children of immigrants, want to join the local athletic club and represent the county in competition. Several of them know how to play and the local club doesn't have a team. But there's a problem -- hurling is an Irish sport and they aren't Irish. At least, they don't fit some people's definition of Irish. With this information alone, you can probably predict the entire plot.
The biggest weakness of HURL is the script. We all love stories about underdog sports teams overcoming seemingly unbeatable odds, but O'Neill relies too much on the narrative (i.e., having the characters narrate their every move) and occasionally can't stop himself from heavy-handed polemic.
The best part about HURL is the hurling matches. I gave up trying to understand the game and instead focused on the impressive choreography (especially since the theatre at New Expressive Works is tiny) and Heath Hyun Houghton's acrobatic talents. I also loved watching the diverse cast tackle all of the accents -- they all had at least one, and Alec Cameron Lugo had four or five. While the entire cast gets a linguistic as well as a physical workout, the best performance is from Clara-Liis Hillier, who plays Lofty, the former priest and current alcoholic who steps up to manage the team. She's got the best lines and she delivers them with feeling.
Overall, I enjoyed HURL. It has its faults, but honestly given the daily immigration news, it's nice to see the good guys triumph. HURL runs through October 28. Details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Adam Liberman