By Abbie Spallen
Directed by J.R. Sullivan
At A Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago
Funny yet searing drama searches for the meaning of community
We see Mairin, a wealthy textile artist who lives in a fine house overlooking the sea. She asks three townswomen to stay the night with her in a drink infested homage to her departed husband. Her quirky neighbors include Eileen (Natalie West), a woman who never passed on a drink, and Mairin’s daughter-in-law Triona (Meg Warber) a emotionally narcissistic woman who pines for her husband. Lastly, Clodagh (Dado), is the self-appointed town “fixer” – the person everyone turns to to make things right. As the drinks keep coming, the women eventually express their agendas. They get interrupted by young Sweeney (John Francis Babbo), who is a near savant child with life understandings far beyond his years.
Mairin has doubts as to her husband’s death. Was it suicide or the result of a heroic act? As the night drones on, secrets are revealed, like the dead man’s hanging out at the town’s pub while telling his wife he was out jogging. She is told that due to being a cold person, her husband sought comfort in another woman’s arms. As her guests each have their turn arguing, berating Mairin and revealing their secrets, we see how a community survives after decades of civil war. Mairin, the rich outsider, is disliked as not part of the community. She takes comfort in the attention she gets from the boy mystic Sweeney who strongly articulates his personal philosophy. Babbo’s rich, authentic Irish brogue is effectively spoken with all the humor and witticism in a terrific acting turn. Babbo’s talent is amazing and far beyond his years. Each cast member spoke in an authentic brogue but each were easily understood.
During the all-night drink-infused confessional, we heard secrets and we learn about Sweeney’s family as the rural border town’s inhabitants close ranks in a survival mode. Personal revelations jolt Triona and Sweeney as well as Mairin. As a play, Strandline is a tad tedious and complex yet the humor and the fine performances by the cast, especially young Babbo,make the show worth a look.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: October 27, 2014
For more info checkout the Strandline page at theatreinchicago.com
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells, Chicago, IL, call 312-943-8722, tickets $30 – $35, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through December 7, 2014