Directed by Terry McCabe
At City Lit Theater
Brilliant early Friel work well acted
Seeing a seldom mounted two part early work from famed Irish playwright Brian Friel is a fine way to start off the fall theatre season in Chicago. Director Terry McCabe has cast well for this two part work.
Act One, “Winners,” is the story of two teens madly in love who meet on a hill above their town to study for their final exams. Since Mag (Catherine Gillespie) is pregnant, the couple is to be wed in a few weeks. Instead of studying, the couple reveal to each other their hopes, fears and dreams. This lyrical one-act is marvelously written and wonderfully acted. Catherine Gillespie is the charming, precocious and wild-eyed girl determined to be the center of attention. We easily grow to love her. Once Gillespie slows down her speech a tad, we’ll be able to more easily understand her. Joey deBettencourt, as Joe, deftly plays the optimistic, book-loving youth determined to both be a model husband and a math teacher. deBettencourt skillfully imitates many of the teachers and adults in their lives. The two narrators interject the story’s sad detains.
In act two’s “Losers,” Friel takes a farcical look at a middle aged couple’s attempt to deal with an invalid mother who uses her saintliness as a weapon to control her daughter. Walter Brody, as Andy Tracy, narrates how he tried to win Hannah (Maggie Cain) as his late-in-life bride. Both lovers lust for sex but Mrs. Wilson’s nimble timing with her bell always slows them down. Friel mocks the stifling effects of family respect for elders and the power of the Catholic religion to control people. We understand Andy and Hannah’s being controlled by duty and religion. These scenes are funny and empathetic. Brody steals this act.
Lovers is a fine early Friel work that aptly depicts Northern Ireland in the 1960’s where family and religion dominated society. We love these characters.
At City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-293-3682, www.citylit.org, tickets $25, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission.