BWW Feature: THE SMUGGLER at Solas Nua
Perhaps the most universal symbol of home, hospitality, and comfort, is the Irish pub. For cynics, that's due in large part to the marketing genius of Guinness and the Irish Pub Company. But, as I write this from my new perch in Galway and having frequented pubs as far flung as Tel Aviv, I can confidently say "hang the cynics". The Smuggler, the latest production from Solas Nua, captures the intimacy found between a publican and his patron and gives it a unique DC spin.
Solas Nua's Artistic Director, Rex Daugherty, mans the bar as Tim Finnegan, an Irish immigrant who has settled on the small island of Amity, just off Martha's Vineyard. Once having dreamt of being a writer, Tim is now struggling to make ends meet as a bartender. All of that may change, however, when he's given an offer he might not be able to refuse and he learns what price he may have to pay to become an American.
The Smuggler, which won the Best Playwright Award at the 1st Irish Festival of New York in January, is a 9000 word rhyme-poem by Irish-American playwright, Ronán Noone. Originally from County Galway and now settled in Boston, Noone brings a journalistic eye to the modern immigrant experience and ruminates on the impossibility of the "American Dream". As Tim weaves his tale, there are shades on Noone's own experience of coming to the United States, set against the backdrop of some very current political issues. In the end, Daugherty says, the audience will come away with an appreciation of how we are all culpable in some way for the situation our country is in today.
As we've come to expect from Solas Nua, the performance space is just as important as the play itself. This time, the setting is Allegory, one of DC's newest and swankiest cocktail bars (located inside the Eaton Hotel) and the audience (which is limited to 30) will be served specialty cocktails, mixed by Daugherty throughout the one-hour performance. Thanks to the craft cocktail trend, bartending has become even more of a performance art in recent years but, contrary to the stereotype, Daugherty has never actually tended bar. He's had to learn the skills involved all while incorporating the art of mixology into the art of theatre. Working with director Laley Lippard, the rehearsal experience has been a unique and challenging one. Daugherty calls the process "mind-boggling" and notes that the "spectacle is in the dance, the danger of the elaborate machine" of it all.
The Smuggler is the first theatre production for the Eaton, which bills itself as "at the intersection of arts and advocacy" and espouses a philosophy of "radical hospitality". "Eaton's commitment to social justice is one we've designed to be a part of every aspect of our ecosystem," says Director of Culture, Sheldon Scott. "The Smuggler was the perfect opportunity for us to take a timely and contentious issue like immigration and give platform for another way for people to build a relationship with it."
Throughout the production run, Solas Nua and the Eaton Hotel will be partnering with several local DC organizations within the immigrant rights community to host a series of post-show discussions.
The Smuggler opens September 8, 2019. Run time is 60 minutes, without intermission. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit solasnua.org.
Performed by Rex Daugherty
Written by Ronán Noone / Directed by Laley Lippard
Lighting Design - Marianne Meadows / Sound Design - Matt Nielson