A Lovely, Bittersweet “Dancing at Lughnasa”
By Skip Sheffield
Hand it to the Irish to find the beauty in struggling, suffering and failing to reach an elusive life's goal.
Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” is a lyrical and lovely, bittersweet memory play set in the year 1936, wonderfully realized by Palm Beach Dramaworks through June 16 at
Clematis St., West Palm Beach.
“Lughnasa” tells the melancholy yet enchanting tale of five grown sisters in the tiny fictional
, just as the Spanish Civil War is heating up and the Nazis are gaining power. village
Older brother Jack (John Leonard Thompson) is on leave from 25 years at a Leper colony in the African British colony of
Uganda. As the
story unfolds it becomes apparent Jack’s retirement is not entirely voluntary.
The story is told by Michael Evans (Declan Mooney), the grown illegitimate son of the dreamy youngest sister, Chris (Gretchen Porro).
The father of Michael is Gerry Evans (Cliff Burgess), a charming Welsh traveling salesman with a gift of the blarney. Eldest daughter Kate (Julie Rowe) is a devout Catholic and the only one gainfully employed as a teacher. Maggie (Meghan Moroney) serves cheerfully as the family’s cook and maid. Agnes (Margery Lowe) is a shy, quiet woman who harbors a fierce crush on dashing Gerry Evans. Rose (Erin Joy Schmidt) is none too bright, but filled with the joy of life and expectation of love.
In Act One the ladies anticipate attending a dance in town. In Act Two they deal with harsher realities of job loss, Gerry’s departure for war, and the departure of two of the sisters.
Directed with almost supernatural sensitivity by J. Barry Lewis, “Lughnasa” is beautifully staged on a set by newcomer Jeff Modereger, artfully lighted by Ron Burns, with precise sound production by Steve Shapiro involving vintage radio broadcasts and old-time music.
In an ensemble show like this there are no star turns. You love each character for what she is. Less admirable are the males, but we understand. This is a memory play, and that’s how it was in
Ireland in 1936:
sad but lovely.
Tickets are $55 ($10 students). Call 561-514-4042 or go to www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.