Jeffrey Bean and Cillian
Hegarty photos by Carol Rosegg
By Barry Bassis
Conor McPherson’s Dublin Carol (at the Irish
Repertory Theater) is not about a woman in Dublin named Carol. Perhaps a more
appropriate title would be “Dublin Christmas Carol” because the play takes
place on Christmas eve and the main character is haunted by his past.
McPherson’s most famous plays (The Weir, Shining City and The Seafarer) have
supernatural elements. Dublin
Carol doesn’t have ghosts or the devil. Instead, the main character
is tormented by his alcoholism and its effect on his life.
On Christmas eve 1999, John
Plunkett (Jeffrey Bean) is working as an undertaker. The owner of the funeral
parlor, Noel, had felt pity for the alcoholic Plunket and given him a job. When
the play begins, Noel is in the hospital and Plunket brings in Noel’s 20-year
old nephew Mark (Cillian Hegarty) to act as his assistant.
The pair has just finished a
funeral service and return to the office for a cup of tea, which Plunket drinks
with added Jameson’s. Plunket’s alcoholism is not cured but is under control
enough so that he can function at work.
Mark says little while Plunket
unleashes his painful past, describing how he abandoned his wife and children
because of his alcoholism. However, even when Noel got him to control his
drinking, he still did not return to his family. Instead, he took up with
In Scene Two, Plunkett’s daughter
Mary (Sarah Street), whom he hasn’t seen in ten years, suddenly appears. She
has come to fetch him because her mother is dying and wants to see her
estranged husband for the last time. When Mary says she still loves him,
Plunket asks why. He hates himself so much, he can’t understand how anyone,
especially the family members he deserted, can still harbor affection for him.
Mary leaves, promising to come back at 5 p.m. to take him to the hospital.
In Scene Three, the tension is
over the question of whether Plunket will work up the courage to confront his
dying wife or will flee before Mary arrives.
Under the sensitive direction of
Ciarán O’Reilly, Jeffrey Bean is completely convincing as Plunket, who spends
much of the play confessing his despicable acts. Sarah Street is unusually
restrained and self-possessed as the daughter who inexplicably offers more
forgiveness to her father than he accords to himself. Cillian Hegarty is
likeable as Mark, the naďve young man subjected to Plunket’s self-pitying
Scenic designer Charlie Corcoran
and properties designer Sven Henry Nelson deserve praise for the funeral parlor
set, rather rundown with Christmas lights to add some artificial holiday cheer.
Dublin Carol lacks the
thrills and chills of McPherson’s supernatural plays, but succeeds in painting
a powerful portrait of the destructive effects of alcoholism.
Dublin Carol is
running at Irish Repertory Theater (132 W 22nd St., (212) 727-2737; www.irishrep.org)
until Nov. 10.