BWW Feature: SILENT at Solas Nua
Growing up in the city of George Eastman, silent films are in my blood. There's something magical about the gritty yet glamorous quality of these cinematic gems. As Norma Desmond famously puts it in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!" You have to wonder what she might think of emojis.
It is this tradition of theatricality and physicality that Pat Kinevane brings to the stage in Silent, his 2011 one-man play about the life of the fictitious Tino McGoldrig. Tino, short for Valentino (as in Rudolph), "once had splendid things", but has lost it all and is now living on the streets of Dublin. Taking inspiration from the historical Valentino, Kinevane brings us into an intimate world of love and loss, of regret and of hope. For director Jim Culleton, this play offers audiences the opportunity to gain a new perspective, to meet someone you might normally cross the street to avoid.
Living in the District of Columbia, it is hard to miss the epidemic of chronic homelessness in our city. According to The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness' 2018 Point-in-Time Count, there were 6,904 person experiencing homelessness in DC. More than a quarter of all adults surveyed report a history of severe mental illness. Black/African American women make up 75% of all women who are homeless, though they account for only 52% of adult women in the District. One-fifth of all women surveyed and one-third of all youth identified as LGBQ+. Nearly one-third of women identified domestic violence as the cause of their homelessness.
This is not just a DC problem. It is repeated in cities across the country and around the world. But there is something particularly troubling about homelessness in our nation's capital. "People come here because they have great ambitions," says Solas Nua's Rex Daugherty. "There's a draw. Ambitious people want to change the world.This play matters. It reverberates in our community." As with Solas Nua's previous production, How to Keep an Alien, one of the keys to making such a serious topic accessible is its use of humor. Culleton says audiences should expect to have "the rug pulled out quite a lot...crying one minute then laughing the next."
For Solas Nua, the aim is not just to be a mirror to social issues, but to truly grapple with them. Curated by assistant producer Linda Lombardi, the organization will be partnering with other groups in the community to continue the conversation on how we deal with homelessness in DC. The March 8 post-show talkback will feature Alicia Horton of Thrive DC. A full schedule of events will be released at a later date.
This production is also the first for Solas Nua at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE. Daugherty hopes the new venue will bring the organization to the attention of new audiences and open up new channels for future collaboration in the neighborhood.
Silent, winner of the 2016 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, is the second in an "accidental" trilogy of plays by Kinevane, each one dealing with a significant social issue. Commissioned, developed, and produced by Fishamble, the internationally-acclaimed Irish theatre company, Forgotten (2006) deals with elder care homes and Underneath (2014) with fixed ideals of beauty. A fourth work which premiered in late 2018, Before looks at alienation between a parent and child.
Silent opens March 5, 2019. Run time is 90 minutes, without intermission. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit solasnua.org.
Written and Performed by Pat Kinevane
Directed by Jim Culleton
Sound Design/Composition - Denis Clohessy
Costume Stylist - Catherine Condell
Choreography Adviser - Emma O'Kane
Dramaturgy - Gavin Kostick
Produced by Eva Scanlan