It's taken longer than anticipated for "The Gigolo Confessions of Baile Breag", the third play in award-winning playwright Ronan Noone's Town trilogy, to get before the public. This trip to the Town of Lies was worth the wait--even though there's some work to do on its complex poetic text. The first play, "The Lepers of Baile Baiste"--the Town of Tears-- set mostly in a pub, was a large cast realistic treatment of the consequences of clergy sexual abuse among a group of old schoolmates. The script won Noone the National Playwrighting Award at the Kennedy Center's American College Theatre Festival. "The Blowin of Baile Gall"--the Town of Strangers--used a smaller cast with almost all the action confined to one room of a house undergoing renovation. This effort, perhaps the strongest of the three, a drama of newcomers, expatriates, and violence, won both the Norton and the IRNE last year for Best New Play. "The Gigolo Confessions of Baile Breag"--the Town of Lies--has only three actors, two of whom play multiple roles to reenact past tragedies somewhere in the West, near the Atlantic. The script is by far the most ambitious of the three, combining poetic diction inspired by Yeats filtered through Sarte and Beckett, retelling past relationships from various viewpoints, slowly revealing damning details of small town hypocrisy and sexual frustration.
This production is a challenge for both cast and audience. Sugan's award-winning director, Carmel O'Reilly has tapped three of the best actors from past shows. Central to the story is Paddy, played by Norton and IRNE winner, Billy Meleady, a schemer who combines windowwashing with intimate services to the town's bored housewives. His distant pragmatism drives the recounting. The disasters begin when he recruits young William, played by IRNE winner Miguel Cervantes, seen this fall as the object of affection in "A Man of No Importance," Sugan's joint production with Speakeasy Stage. It's seems one gigolo isn't enough, even in a small town. The two are woven into the life of Rosie, played by Judith McIntyre, one of the underused gems of Boston theatre, last seen in Sugan's "Bailegangaire" two season's ago. Expatriate in Amsterdam along with Paddy, she demands a reckoning, and in a series of revelations echoing "Huis Clo", the stories unfold.
For in Baile Breag, as Rosie says, "adultery isn't a sin, it's a way of life," a circumstance which the author suggests is emblematic of the sexual turmoil which has shaken Irish society during his lifetime, and indeed back to Kitty O'Shea. Her complex relationship with Paddy, despite her fling with William which leads to the larger part of the tragedy, unfolds throughout the play. McIntyre, who always brings her characterizations into sharp focus, here carries the weight of the play in truly heroic fashion. Noone showed he could write a complex female character in "The Blowin..."--a part which won Susan B. McConnell an IRNE. Here he makes Rosie the center of the action and the actress carries it almost over the top. Meleady gives her the anchor to do so, while Cervantes provides a foil, both a simple William, enamored of her younger self, and transformed into her Daddy, a twitching religious bigot.
The action plays out on a plain unit set, with a hint of Japanese formal architecture, perhaps a nod to Yeat's fascination with the Noh theatre. B.U. Richard Chambers, recipient of both Norton and IRNE awards for "The Blowin...", has provided translucent screens as wings, frames to serve as windows and doors, and few pieces of furniture for O'Reilly and her cast to construct a complex world. Careful lighting by Daniel Meeker of the Ithaca College faculty allows the scenes to flow from place to place and time to time, helped immeasurably by Haddon Kime's soundscape and original music. There are also unaccompanied traditional tunes, sung mostly by William, an erstwhile poet lost in this backwater, mostly in Gminor, the melancholy scale which on special significance. Simple costumes by Frances Nelson McSherry complete the picture, while coaching by Sugan veteran John Morgan, who hails from the West brings the dialects of Meleady from Dublin, McIntyre from Boston--Jamaica Plain to be exact--and Cervantes from Texas into a common tongue.
This a play, like most of Noone's work, full of surprises, enough so that a second viewing or maybe a read-after may be needed to appreciate its nuances. It's hard to decide whether that is a fault or a difficulty which this excellent production hasn't fully overcome. The author, now an American citizen teaching Playwrighting at a local state college, may be at a crossroad where influences from the last century of Irish drama and poetry intersect with his own unique voice. More of the latter, which was evident in the first two plays of this series, may catapult his already impressive writing to the next level.
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