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January 31, 2011

TT: She stumbled when she saw

In the Greater New York section of today's Wall Street Journal, I review the Irish Repertory Theatre's off-Broadway revival of Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney. Here's an excerpt.

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Why is is that American productions of the works of Brian Friel, the greatest playwright of the English-speaking world, are so hard to come by? It's been two years since I last saw one, which is far too long. So it is good news indeed that the Irish Repertory Theatre, my favorite Off-Broadway company, is performing "Molly Sweeney," a three-person show about a 41-year-old woman who undergoes an operation to regain the sight she lost as a baby. "Molly Sweeney" is one of Mr. Friel's most remarkable plays, yet it hasn't been presented in New York since 1996, which I find even harder to fathom. Fortunately, this revival, staged by Charlotte Moore, the company's artistic director, is immensely persuasive, and I have no doubt that anyone who sees it will be converted on the spot to Mr. Friel's cause.

NY-AT229_NYTEAC_G_20110130174016.jpg"Molly Sweeney" is a three-person play constructed along the same "Rashomon"-like lines as Mr. Friel's "Faith Healer," in which the characters speak to the audience but not to one another, telling their collective tale from their own sharply different perspectives. The personalities here are no less varied. Molly (Geraldine Hughes) is a strong, serene woman who long ago came to terms with her disability and now fears--with good reason--the unknowable consequences of regaining her sight. Her husband Frank (CiarĂ¡n O'Reilly) is a garrulous ne'er-do-well who sees in Molly's operation the possibility that his own life will be changed, only for the better. And Mr. Rice (Jonathan Hogan), the small-town opthalmologist who performs the surgery, is a man of squandered promise who is sure that operating on Molly will restore to him the high hopes of his lost youth.

What follows is a devastating parable of disappointment in all its terrible forms, one that is vastly more powerful because it is so understated....

Never do you feel as though Ms. Moore's three fine actors are "performing." They appear instead to be real people who are telling you about something that happened to them. All the art is carefully concealed--but don't be deceived, for this production is artful in every aspect....

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Read the whole thing here.

Posted January 31, 2011 12:00 AM

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