By the Bog of Cats

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By Marina Carr.

Directed by John Mossman.

At The Artistic Home, Chicago.

Haunting modern Irish drama pays homage to the classic Greek tragedies.

The creatives at The Artistic Home, led by director John Mossamn find unique and stage worthy plays to mount. Their latest is the 1998 Irish drama, By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr. This is a tragic drama inspired by the great Greek tragedies. It is set in the watery area of Ireland known as the ‘bog.’

This bog is a ghostly landscape that is a tough place to survive. The story centers around Hester Swane ( Kristin Collins in a tour de force performance). On this particular day, her world is being torn in half after a lifetime of abandonment that includes her mother runing off when she was a girl and he present pressure to leave her home in the bog.

On this day, Hester, after burying her black swan, vows to claim everything that’s hers despite her lover Carthage Kilbride (Tim Musachio) leaving her to marry Caroline Cassidy (Kelsey Phillips) whose family wants Hester off her land. Hester has a seven year old daughter, Josie Kilbridge (Elise Wolf) with Carthage, who wants to take Josie away from Hester.  She is a tinker (sort of Irish gypsy) who lives in a world that blurs the past with the present and the dead and the living. Superstition and being a witch haunt Hester Alienation and horror plague her world. She has few folks to turn to except local misfits such as the Catwoman ( the hilarious Caroline Dodge Latta).

Hester is pushed by the nasty neighbors including Xavier Cassify (Frank Nall) and  Mrs Killbride (Jane DetLaubenfels) among others. Could she be driver to vengeance?

Filled with richly symbolic dialogue that sounds poetic as well as funny in the great Irish tradition of storytelling, By the Bog of Cats is  a densely worded tragic drama sprinkled with colorful characters and  pure Irish humor. On her journey, we see Hester being pushed to her limits of human endurance as she is forced to make a final horrible, self sacrificing decision.

The acting here is terrific as Kristin Collins does her finest work to date on a Chicago stage. Caroline Dodge Latta is a hoot as the wacky Catwoman.  Ten year old Elise Wolf was magnificent as the precocious seven year old Josie. Elise has the chops of a mature actress.

Fans of Greek tragedies as well as fans if Irish drama together with dedicated theatre patrons will enjoy this play. By the Bog of Cats is a a polished, well staged and finely acted drama that begs to be seen. Once more The Artistic Home proves that they are among Chicago’s finest theatre troupes.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: February 13, 2017.

Jeff Recommended.

For more info checkout the By the Bog of Cats page at theatreinchicago.com.

At The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL, call 312-811-4111., www.theartistichome.org, Tickets $28 for Thursday and $32 for the weekend performances, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3pm, running time is 2hours, 13 minutes with intermission, through March 26, 2017.

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