Friday again, and time for my weekly Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser (posted by remote control from Chicago with the help of OGIC–I’m still on the road). I devoted most of this week’s column to a rave review of the Irish Repertory Theatre’s superlative production of Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come!:
Mr. Friel’s play is, of course, a modern classic, one of the outstanding English-language plays of the postwar era. Written in 1964, it’s a textbook example of how to take an over-familiar situation–the inability of a bright young man to communicate with his stolid, emotionally closed-off father–and make it blazingly fresh and immediate. In a stroke of ingenuity that only seems obvious in retrospect, Mr. Friel has split Gar, who is leaving “the land of the curlew and the snipe” to seek his fortune in far-off Philadelphia, into two people, one public (Michael FitzGerald), the other private (James Kennedy) and invisible save to his flesh-and-blood companion. It is the private Gar who gives voice to the public Gar’s interior monologue, a “Lucky Jim”-like stream of frustrated, coruscating mockery directed at the hapless residents of the village in which he lives, and above all at his father, S.B. “Screwballs” O’Donnell (Edwin C. Owens), a gloomy widower who cannot bring himself to express his love and pride for the son he is about to lose….
I could go on and on about the cast, each member of which deserves a separate paragraph of lavish praise (though I mustn’t fail to make particular mention of Mr. Owens, who triumphs in the daunting task of illuminating the soul of an all-but-inarticulate man). David Raphel’s shabby d