Conlon, Robert Zawadzki and Patrick O’Kane
By Eugene Paul
Irish have kept records, daily records, of their day to day struggles killing
each other. If you want to look up who was killed on what day by what means
you can do it. Pick a date significant to you and plunge right into the Web.
Take the Catholic versus Protestant battles in Northern Ireland, for instance.
Every day from 1968 to 2003 is recorded. You wouldn’t find the names, no,
they’re not important. Just the number. And the means. Usually bombs. Thrown
at each other. It’s all numb now, even as recent as that. But not for
everyone. Not for survivors. The hatred lives on. And the pain.
in a pub, of course. Alyson Cummins’s artful, working setting is that of a
typical pub. Kind of newish looking. As if it had been rebuilt after a
bombing. Everything’s the same. Except for the new TV screen. It’s been
forty years. Oh, the barkeep, he’s new, he’s Robert, which is as close as the
Irish can get to his proper name; he’s a Pole. Ireland’s full of them, looking
for a better life and young Robert (excellent Robert Zawadzki) keeps things
spanking neat and clean, plays his lottery chances on the little standup
machine, calls his girl on his cell phone and watches football on the big, new
high up telly, occasionally giving profound advice to the players. Life is
fine. A little quiet – no one’s here – but fine.
Conlon and Patrick O’Kane photo credit to James Higgin
Jimmy (electric Patrick O’Kane) comes in. And the atmosphere comes immediately
charged. Jimmy, late fifties, hard scrabbled clothes, in a storm of turmoil.
He is here, this night, this anniversary night, to meet the kid who threw the
bomb into this pub forty years ago and killed a lot of Catholics, among them
Jimmy’s father. Jimmy was sixteen when his father died. And now, forty years
later, this Ian, this Protestant, wants to meet and to talk. To talk? About
what? Love? Forgiveness? Tolerance? Here? In this pub?
keeps his eyes glued to the TV. Poland is playing Germany? Whatever. It’s
important. To keep your eyes on the game. To keep quiet.
then, a man comes into the pub as if it took all his courage just to get
through the door. Obviously, this is Ian forty years later, the kid who threw
the bomb that killed Jimmy’s father. Jimmy cannot contain himself. In his
rage, he pounds Ian to the floor.
stays frozen, out of it. Ian pulls himself together. Nobody moves. Nobody
speaks. Ian pulls some money from his pocket and Jimmy gets ready to pounce.
Ian puts the money on the bar. Orders two beers. They’re for himself, two
beers are his time here, then he’s gone. Robert draws the beers, takes his
money, gives him the change. Ian moves to the other side of the room, turns to
Jimmy, tries to begin.
Owen McCafferty, Belfast born, has burrowed into the throbbing bog of living with
Belfast’s religious torn past as it daily haunts the existence of survivors of
that past, survivors of that long war upon themselves still unresolved. How
many generations will it take before that hate is not handed down and handed
down with their daily bread? McCafferty has boiled the wide flung conflict
down to these two, Catholic Jimmy, Protestant Ian, bound together by a single,
personal crime of violence. In Ireland, this is dangerous. Here, it’s a little
lost among the muck of battles Americans have to choose from among themselves,
which is why this splendid Abbey Theatre production is wisely being presented
among resident Irish Americans who relish their Irishness no matter what. Here,
they recognize every jot ant tittle of the practical pub, from its flowing taps
down to the coat hook for Jimmy’s mac, nodding their heads at that little ledge
where Ian has put his glass, the one running around the column. Here, the ears
are attuned to Belfast cadences as well as every shade of brogue revealing
every heritage in Eire. You can’t fool this audience. This is bitter medicine
and it’s never the time.
cast is practically perfection. Patrick O’Kane as Jimmy deserves all the
accolades he’s garnered in the travals of the play on its way here. I have
never seen him better. Declan Conlon’s genuineness is the rock all three
actors build on. Without his honesty there’s only chaos. Roberd Zawadzki is
exactly the right weight as the bartender whose fight it isn’t but who
recognizes instantly where it comes from and gets out of the way as much as he
can. Director Jimmy Fay has handled his company so expertly it’s as if it all
had to happen before us the way it does, a superb job. He gets admirable
support from Sinead McKenna for lighting, Philip Stewart for sound, Donal
O’Farrell for the fighting, Catherine Fay for costumes. How fine that the
Public Theater has shared in presenting this remarkable production.
Quietly. At the Irish
Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street. Tickets: $70. 212-727-2737.
75 Min. Thru Sept 11.