Keegan Theatre Dancing at LughnasaBy Mark Lee Adams • Apr 5th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Church Street Theater, Washington DC
Through April 18
$30/$25 Seniors & Students
Reviewed March 25, 2010
The Keegan Theatre at Church Street Theatre is performing this Brian Friel Tony Award-winning play. A wonderful story of the lives of an impoverished Irish family….
Before I tell about this show I would like to say a word or two about the lives of actors. As in any profession, actors are met with all kinds of hurdles, just like the lives of everyone else. Actors have rent or mortgages to pay, cars to get fixed and in some cases (allot really) children who have to be at this function or that function. The tragedies that befall actors are identical as the tragedies that befall us all in our lives. Only, as an actor (an Artist) we all strive to bring to the stage the absolute best on any and every night or matinee. Actors study the lives of their character, interpret the playwrights’ words and incorporate the vision of the director in order to achieve and bring to life that character within us. A doting task for most, but as any true professional in any field will tell you, “It’s what I do.”
So, if you will allow me this one indulgence, let me share with you what it’s like to have to perform on a night when someone near and dear to you has passed. We all know the feelings. The grief is overwhelming, the lump in your throat that grows and swells at the thought of the life no more and the memories of times past with him or her, good and bad, overtaking every waking moment of your day and even in your dreams. It is a time when we all must take pause. (“To die, to sleep, no more”) I believe you all know these feelings, have experienced them and wished them on no one else.
And yet, within the life of an actor, the phrase we all know reels its ugly head; THE SHOW MUST GO ON! So what does the actor do? What can an actor do? Most people take time and mourn. We compose our grief and join those who were touched by our dearly departed. Together we mourn, reflect, laugh and cry. Then we all pull up our strength and return to our lives. All the richer for knowing and loving our best friend, brother, sister or cousin, our mother or father grand and great, our lover; our soul mate who has passed. But the actor isn’t allowed this luxury. The actor must go on.
So, you (the actor) begin the process of bringing to life the character within you. The makeup is applied, the costume is ready. Our caring families of fellow actors are all there to support you and hold you up. You stare at your image in the mirror and for the first time you see yourself as you never have before or as only a very scant few times in your life. You see your image apart from yourself. As if you’re standing behind yourself and watching yourself as you go through the machinations of stage preparedness. This image of yourself stays with you (apart from you) as the show opens and you force yourself to hide your emotional grief. You have two working thoughts and sometimes more. Whispering thoughts of grief and mourning with full voice in conversation with each other, while we are, apart from ourselves, acting on stage. Always fighting back and away the lump in our throat as the grief tries to release into a wail. Somehow we turn back the grief, tears, and shortness of breath and persevere. We move on. We do what must be done. The play is the thing! It is that part of our profession which separates us from most others. No, it doesn’t make us any different or better. It is the life of an actor we have chosen and for now, “It’s Showtime!”
I have experienced this in my acting career and know what and how I felt. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I know it befalls us all. An actor in this production has had to endure this grief and pain and still summon up the courage to move on and perform. For this, I personally applaud and am deeply moved by the effort and perfection of the performance. As an audience member and reviewer I thank you from the depths of my heart and it was an honor to there.
Now back to the play, Dancing at Lughnasa. There is something to be said about how actors deal with other actors onstage. It was clear from the onset of this production had four superb actresses in Elisabeth Jernigan (Agnes), Brianna Letourneau (Chris), Emily Levey (Rose), Susan Marie Rhea (Maggie) playing sisters, and Kerri Rambow (Kate) playing the girls aunt and Kevin Adams (Jack) playing their Uncle Jack. This family not only knew each other but had such chemistry between them; one would swear they were related in real life. Many times in a show the chemistry between characters is lost and we don’t get the real chance to feel the moments created when the chemistry is lost. When the chemistry is there, like in this production, we get to share in their every emotion. This is a treat for all to see.
The show begins and ends with Colin Smith (Michael Evans) talking to us, the audience. He narrates the story and interacts with others as his memories take us through his past with them. His only real interactions are with the audience and I felt he could’ve allowed us to see some more emotion as he spoke of the trying times. Yes, you have to be somewhat stoic at times for protection of heart, but as lovely as this story is. I felt a few missed opportunities as you shared your story.
Gerry Evans (Matthew Keenan) had fun with his character. It was obvious he was unfamiliar with his cane though and I wanted to see his inner struggles. Matthew’s inability to the commitment of lover and child didn’t seem to create any inner difficulties of conscience. He was portrayed more as a happy go lucky man who skipped his way through life without care of who was hurt in his wake.
Keegan Theatre’s production of Dancing at Lughnasa is a must see for all who love to see the magic of theatrical chemistry at its finest. All of will fall in love with the ‘Mundy’ family. All will cry for them. No who sees this show will ever forget them. I know I won’t.
Don’t miss this show. It will move you in ways you can’t imagine.
- Michael Evans: Colin Smith
- Kate Mundy: kerri Rambow
- Maggie Mundy: Susan Marie Rhea
- Agnes Mundy: Elizabeth Jernigan
- Rose Mundy: Emily Levey
- Chris Mundy: Brianna Letourneau
- Jack Mundy Kevin Adams
- Gerry Evans: Matthew Keenan
- Director: Mark A. Rhea
- Director: Abigail Isaac
- Stage Manager: Lauren Miller
- Set Designer: George Lucas
- Lighting Designer: Megan Thrift
- Sound Designer: Mark. A Rhea
- Sound Designer: Matthew Keenan
- Costume Designer: Kelly Peacock
- Choreographer: Kurt Boehm
- Set Dresser/Properties Designer: Carol Baker
Disclaimer: Keegan Theatre provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4847.
Mark Lee Adams has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.