According to the new comedy-drama at the Soho Playhouse, The Irish Curse is having a small dick. And indeed, all the characters in the play are of Irish lineage. Writing as a Jew, I expect Italian-named playwright Marin Casella to be likewise writing as an observer, as it were—even as a documentarian—though I can’t vouch for his research; writing as a drama critic, I found the whole thing to be kind of silly. The play posits a support group in a Brooklyn church basement, run by an afflicted priest, for guys with wee willies to, ah, share and discuss.
Obviously in a larger sense (no pun intended), the play means to examine the meaning of manhood in contemporary American society, using—let’s be serious now—what must be the very real psychological challenge of having one’s sexually rejected, derided or revulsive. And you know what? There’s probably a fascinating and provocative play to be written on the subject. But Mr. Casella’s pushes the limits of credulity. (My evening's companion was, among other things, a liberal-minded yet lifelong employee of the Catholic Church, who could not imagine the circumstances under which such a group could legitimately exist in a church and be run by a clergyman, without being clandestine and therefore not entirely legitimate. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Casella would claim in response to have read of such a group; but in that case he leaves too many questions unanswered.) Also the play is hugely undramatic until the end—I won’t spoil the trajectory, for a reason I’ll cite below. For the most part, it’s written in the manner of Shavian dialectic—no, seriously, it is—only with colloquial NYC diction. And the discussion and debate isn’t all that interesting or insightful. Or surprising.
At least not to me or my companion.
But the audience sure loved the dickens out of it. (Pun, I guess, intended.)
For me, Mr. Casella is writing with surface comic facility—a new millennium take on the style of Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark, who used to write one comedy after another that bombed on Broadway, precisely for being too trivial for the venue, but cleaned up in the stock and amateur circuit. Even when Casella's play means to become poignant, it doesn’t go very deep. (Pun not wholly intended, but I’m not oblivious to it.)
But something about The Irish Curse seems to resonate as a date play—yeah, go figure—and the laughs the night I attended were consistent and strong. It was a full house at a critic’s preview, a lot of comps, some paper, TDF discounts, etc. But even so, that strong and unequivocal a group response can’t be faked. Comedy is the most democratic form of entertainment there is. If they laugh, it’s funny. The end. That’s why I won’t go near spoilers here. You might find it funny too. And you know what? No shame if you do.
The cast is a mixed bag (its most prominent player, and among its strongest, is Dan Butler, aka “Bulldog” on Frasier) but they deliver what’s on the page with energy and convincing-enough conviction under the efficient if unremarkable direction of Matt Lenz.
beyond that, I have dick-all to say…