BWW Review: THE FINAL DAYS OF WOLFE TONE at The Antrim Theater
Going to the Theatre, for me, can do one of two things: educate me and enthrall me or elevate me to an outer-worldly experience. This can be done through language, music and an ambiance in which I am transported. This was highly achieved by the production of The Final Days of Wolfe Tone, presented by the Irish Arts Forum, at The Antrim Playhouse, and written by author/playwright Peter Danish.
The Final Days of Wolfe Tone indeed tells of a Protestant lawyer by the name of Theobald Wolfe Tone, who fought with the Irishman to rebel against the British Rule. The United Irishman, as they were called, were a republican revolutionary group that were greatly influenced by the American and French Revolutions. This was dubbed The Irish Rebellion of 1798.
Mr. Danish sets the show in the jail cell after Wolfe Tone, played by Ciarán Sheehan, and is captured, awaiting, he hopes, a trial. Mr. Sheehan gave a heroic, yet heartbreaking portrayal. In addition to Wolfe Tone, The other two actors are his friend Tom Wilson, played by Peter Cormican, and a menacing guard, played by Brian Maffitt. Mr. Wilson was an ideal foil to Mr. Sheehan, helping to counteract Mr. Mafitt's taunts. The action is primarily staged front and center within the jail cell, with some exchanges with the MR. Mafitt's guard behind the bars.
The performances are fully realized, thanks to the directing by James Lorengar and the set design by Mr. Danish himself. The lighting design by Mike Gnazzo conveys the different aspects of the situation, growing bright when the guard is out of the picture, to when he reappears and provokes Wolfe Tone and Tom Wilson. Mr. Danish has crafted a character driven show about integrity, yet loss at what is actually important. Mr. Sheehan does not play Wolfe Tone to be likeable at times. He certainly has his worthy cause he believes in, yet he cannot admit his regret about how the fight to conquer the tyranny affected his family relationship. He understands the magnitude of his actor's talents and positions their characters in ways that showcase them. He even had Mr. Sheerhan and Mr. Cormican, who have Musical Theatre backgrounds,sing a bit in the show, without it being misplaced.
The Final Days of Wolfe Tone is a riveting play in which the dialogue and interactions are the heart of the story. With fully realized characters and harrowing moments, this play was able to completely rip my heart out with its convictions and brilliant writing. Everything came together and then some. I was also truly educated, and isn't that what Theatre should be all about?