A Tale of Three Irelands
THE RIVERDALE PRESS - Wed., Nov 3, 2010 to Tues., Nov 9, 2010
Theater is Alive in Riverdale
Puttin' On Your Shorts2
Poor Mouth Theatre Company
Review by Adam Wisnieski
Conor McManus in Janice Young's "The Big Five O"
There was no way the members of An Beal Bocht Cafe’s new theater company could get away with putting on the poor mouth on Oct 28.
The show was sold out. The place was packed.
An Beal Bocht is not only the title of a somewhat-obscure 1941 novel by Flann O’Brien, translated from Irish it means “the poor mouth,” which comes from the Gaelic expression “Putting on the pour mouth” — to pretend things are worse off than they are as a defense or an excuse.
But the pub/cafe on West 238th Street that bears the name was the site of applause and bunches of flowers last week, as the aptly-named Poor Mouth Theatre Company presented Puttin’ on Your Shorts 2, five short plays with actors and playwrights from Riverdale.
The upper level of An Beal Bocht Cafe was closed off from the bar and only accessible from the second entrance outside. It was manned by Pat Gilheany, who was in the unfortunate position of having to tell people their only choice was the waiting list or taking comfort at the bar.
In March, the Poor Mouth Theatre Company debuted at An Beal Bocht on the tiny stage built specifically for the group, founded by Colin Broderick, Don Creedon and Stephen Smallhorne, with the first production of Puttin’ On Your Shorts. Mr. Creedon’s Guy Walks Into a Bar soon followed and won the Audience Award at the 1st Irish Theatre Festival, held across New York City from Sept. 7 to Oct. 4.
Last week, the first short, Everything Must Go — written and acted in by Jamie Budge Gehman, and directed by author Mr. Broderick — portrayed a husband and wife on the verge of divorce holding a garage sale. Like many of the evening’s shorts, it presented a serious theme in a comedic light.
“I hope you’re happy with the Irish treasure you just got for the price of an Irish breakfast!” yelled Jim, played by Gordon Tashjian, to a customer buying a vase that reminded him of happier days with his wife.
Chris Campion’s one-man show, Untitled Monologue, a humorous, absurd story, told the tale of one man’s journey from rock star dreams to a more sobering reality of splitting up a fight on the street between his neighbor and a passerby who didn’t like that he was selling chocolate chip cookies for diabetes.
Scott Kennedy’s Bill’s Arc depicted a group of playwrights, workshopping each other’s writing. It began with Bill reading the last line of his play and sitting down satisfied before other members berated him for his “sick and vile” manuscript that featured goats, pool sticks and toll booth clerks.
Bill Rutkoski’s one-man show, Christ is the Answer … But What’s the Question? involved his singing and telling stories about the character’s lifelong interest in religion. Mr. Rutksoki had trouble keeping a straight face when crooning about Jesus not liking him and being beaten by Sister Mary Beatem in Catholic school, but it was all in character.
The final play, The Big Five O, was written by former Riverdalian Janice Young, who teaches high school English in Yonkers, N.Y. and runs her school’s drama club. The piece, about a group of men unable to speak their true feelings to one another while dealing with middle age problems, was based on An Beal Bocht regulars. Ms. Young wrote it specifically to be performed there.
Her mouth was turned up into a smile by the end of the night.
“It’s the first play I’ve done with adults in it and I can’t tell you how satisfying it was. It was like Christmas in October,” she said after the show.
New Theater Company Debuts in Bronx
Puttin' On Your Shorts
Poor Mouth Theatre Company
Review by Cahir O’Doherty
The Celtic Tiger was quietly laid to rest during the opening performance of Poor Mouth Theatre Company's debut show Puttin' On Your Shorts in Riverdale in the Bronx last weekend. In time honored Irish fashion, there was a lot of laughing at the wake.
Two pallbearers followed by a solemn priest entered carrying a small (open) wood coffin. Inside was a little tiger wearing a green soccer scarf.
"Before the Celtic Tiger came along," the priest announced, "the poor people of Ireland were totally useless. Nothing they ever did amounted to anything except maybe write books about their terrible childhoods growing up in desperate holes like Limerick and making up stories about sexual abuse. Stuff that never actually happened..."
The gales of laughter that followed that line set the tone for the whole evening. The Don Creedon written and directed piece was an instant hit, as was everything that followed it.
Calling these pieces "shorts" is an understatement. The truth is that between them they represent some of the smartest and most hilarious new Irish writing seen onstage anywhere in recent years.
But although all three of the founding members are Irish, they want to make it explicitly clear that this is not an Irish theater company, as such—anyone is welcome to participate and stage a piece. On their debut night they chose five short plays and one reading from a forthcoming memoir, and in the process they lifted the lid on the creativity that's been without a home in Riverdale for far too long.
Even hurricane force rain and wind could not prevent the performnace space at An Beal Bocht Café from selling out. Poor Mouth began the night in a bittersweet way by unveiling a plaque dedicating the performance space to the late great actor Chris O'Neill.
O'Neill, who was known to many in Ireland (and to the expat community here in New York) as Michael in the long running TV show The Riordans, was also one of the co-founders of the original Bronx Irish Theatre Company 17 years earlier, giving many in the Irish community their first shot at working with a serious theater company.
In that same spirit, the new group is hoping to create a home for lost creative souls in the Chris O'Neill Room at An Beal Bocht Café.
After Celtic Tiger Wake Nicola Murphy took the stage for a tour de force in The Actress, written by Sara McDermott and directed by Tim Ruddy. This was followed by another Creedon gem titled Shackled. In this short two women come up with the perfect solution to the worldwide problems created by belligerent men—corrective surgery or hormone replacement (it's your choice).
"Men on top", says one exasperated female character. "The subjugation of women. Penetrating wherever and whomever they want.
Sure, they treat us just like they treat the world. Drilling holes wherever they feel like. Wham, bam, thank you mam. As far as men are concerned, this is just one big brothel. Well, not any more, Georgie boy, d'ya hear me?"
On the night this was just the kind of battle of the sexes to enliven the evening, and in the process to make some deeper points about their impact on the world. But you can just enjoy the craic if that's all you're up for, either way you'll still have been thoroughtly entertained.
As Delia, the woman who wants a world without men, Katherine O'Sullivan was reveling in the role of an avenging virago. Bronagh Harmon nailed her go-along-to-get-along partner who realized the enormity of what she's getting into just in time for a happy ending.
Turnstiles, written by Liz Amberly, directed by Carrie Isaacman and starring Amanda Sayle and Liz Frost, was a gently feminist primer about getting even with loser boyfriends and husbands. (Interestingly, men and the world they've created were turned on the spit all night).
This being a Poor Mouth theater, the company can schedule any play or event they like, so next up was author Colin Broderick, who read an excerpt from his follow on book to the hard-hitting memoir Orangutan entitled That's That.
The evening ended in a luminous fashion with Tony Caffrey as an unspeakable funny St. Peter in Pearly Gates, written by Stephen Smallhorne (who also starred) and featuring Conor McManus. The wages of sin may be small, the plays suggests, but the hours are excellent.
THE IRISH VOICE - Wed., May 12, 2010 to Tues., May 18, 2010
When Guys Want to Meet Girls
Guy Walks Into a Bar
By Don Creedon
Review by Cahir O’Doherty
After a shattering divorce, thirtysomething Joe wants to “get back out there” in the dating game. After all, he reasons, he’s still young, he has his urges, and he knows there’s much more to life than work and sleep—it’s just that he’s sorely out of practice when it comes to wooing women.
So where does an eager but timid guy turn to answer love’s call? He turns to the Internet and speed dating, that’s where. And let’s face it, what could be timelier or more impersonal than that? But as usual with the Internet, what you see is rarely ever what you get.
In Guy Walks Into a Bar, Irish playwright Don Creedon’s genuinely hilarious and caustic series of four interlinked new plays about love, lust and dating now playing at the Producer’s Club in New York, the playwright casts a cold eye on the world of men (who are, we learn, prepared to do or say anything in pursuit of their goal, which is love, or failing that, another notch on their bedpost).
People used to talk about the battle of the sexes. In this new era of Dr. Phil and Oprah, that kind of adversarial language has been replaced by reassuring buzzwords like empathy and understanding—but what has actually changed?
In Creedon’s perceptive plays, which are set in any and every corner dive bar in the city, if you scratch the gentleman you instantly reveal the hairy knuckled cave man beneath. All it really takes to uncover the truth is one beer and the prospect of another lonely night at home.
As Joe, the hapless but decent straight man who is desperately trying to change his luck (or at the very least, his batting average) Walter Michael DeForest brings authenticity and real feeling to his role as protagonist.
Joe is a man suddenly adrift in life, with just his dog for company, and no clear plan for the future. When he steps into the local dive bar to meet the woman he’s been corresponding with online he gets cold feet when she looks much less appealing in the flesh.
Taking in Joe’s epic battle with himself are Sam (Bill Rutkoski) and Decco (Wayne Stills). Two cynical, seen-it-all-before barflies, they instantly diagnose Sam’s predicament and offer him even more disastrous solutions.
When men advise men the choice is often between bad and diabolical, and Creedon has enormous fun skewering their pomposity and selfishness. They wise guys, he shows us, think they have life licked. But in reality they’re not waving, they're drowning.
The essence of comedy is the yawning gap between aspiration and reality, and Creedon (whose Bronx based theater company Poor Mouth, has put Irish theater back on the map) navigates it expertly.
Guy Walks Into a Bar is subtle and bitingly funny satire that holds the mirror up to male vanity. Creedon’s wrongheaded characters struggle with their hearts and their heads, and the result is laughter. Marriage, divorce, infidelity, hypocrisy, lies and desperation—they’re all here.
When Joe begins an affair with a married woman on her wedding night, he decides to secretly tag along on her honeymoon too. This is one of the stellar decisions that Creedon’s self-deluded characters often make.
Hoping to stay one step ahead of the game, they end up being pawns that get played. Both Rutkoski and his foil Wayne Stills excel as recognizable city boys whose disastrous advice is only matched by their ruinous behavior.
Creedon excels at pushing his characters past the point of absurdity. When a local bar allows ladies to drink for free between eight and 10, he has Steve and Dessie (Rutkoski and Stills again) buy some wigs and heels and encamp on barstools to freeload. What they lose in personal dignity, they reason, they make up for in freebies.
But their flirtation with the lived reality of the opposite sex has unintended consequences. Suddenly they start seeing the world through women’s eyes, they get in touch with their feelings, and they start to notice the inconsistencies they used to let slide.
It’s amazing, considering how often most men think about women, how little time they actually give to contemplating being one. That central irony powers Guy Walks Into a Bar.
The battle of the sexes still rages, but in Creedon’s four plays (which get deeper and stranger and funnier as they progress) it’s the self-inflicted harm that cuts the deepest.
SHOW BUSINESS WEEKLY - Tues, May 11 to Monday, May 17, 2010
Guy Walks Into a Bar
Written and Directed by Don Creedon
Review by Iris Greenberger
Whether single or married, everyone can remember the trials and tribulations of the dating scene. With great humor, writer and director Don Creedon captures all the lows of looking for a long-term relationship in the comedy Guy Walks Into a Bar. The action centers on Joe, a 30-something Everyman whose confidence has been badly shaken by the breakup of his marriage, as he attempts to get back into the game.
As Joe, Walter Michael DeForest heads up the perfectly cast three-man ensemble. We follow him in four scenes, all set in New York City bars, as he experiments with Internet dating, an affair with a married woman, speed dating and ladies’ night. In each situation, he encounters a different pair of guys, played with impeccable comic timing by Bill Rutkoski and Wayne Stills.
In the first bar, Joe nervously awaits a blind date he met on the Internet. Two bar flies—Sam and Decco—feed on his insecurities by telling him that any woman who would look for a man online must be desperate. Next, he meets Sal and Dommo as all three watch a football game on TV. When Joe admits to having a several-year affair with a married woman whom he can only see when her husband is out of town going to football games, the two question what he is gaining from this lopsided relationship. At the next bar, where Joe waits to participate in a speed-dating event, Shea and Dodo are shocked that he would pay for this kind of singles’ activity. The pair leave him completely flustered as they explain why talking to 12 women for 10 minutes each “goes against the laws of human nature.” The repartee is outrageous and hilarious as they do a series of mock speed dates with him to see if he can handle the difficult questions they are sure the women will ask him later that evening. In the final scene, set in a bar where Joe has stopped in for drinks on ladies’ night, he chats with two very straight looking men—Steve and Dessie—who have dressed as women just to get free drinks. Here, the physical comedy of the pair enhances some very witty dialogue.
All three actors are wonderfully talented and make the most of clever, fast-paced writing. Don Creedon has a spot-on understanding of the dark side of looking for love and has found just the right actors to deliver his message.