Directed by Robin Witt
At A Red Orchid Theatre
“Branded, marked and scarred by talk,” Breda scowls. “Boxed by words.”
Irish absurdest tragicomic has hints of Beckett
Enda Walsh, a contemporary Irish playwright, follows Samuel Beckett’s style of near mad absurdest storytelling in his 2005 work, The New Electric Ballroom now in a electrify funny production at A Red Orchid Theatre.
The New Electric Ballroom is a funny work filled with sadness about three middle age plus sisters in a small town in Ireland who live a lonely life because they fear change and avoid living in the present. Filled with rich Irish humor and desperate remembrances of their long past teenage trauma involving romance and sex. We meet Breda (Kate Buddeke) the former sexy one; Clara (Laurie Larson), the former jilted one; and Ada (Kirsten Fitzgerald) the never-been-kissed youngest sister. The three are caught in a cycle that has them reliving, over and over, those traumatic events from their teen years in and around the Electric Ballroom. The three are sequestered in a small apartment spending all day, every day reliving the same past events.
They are only interrupted by daily by Patsy (Guy Van Swearingen), a shy fishmonger. Patsy delivers fish and stands at the door relating the town’s news as he awaits an invite into the apartment that never comes. The sisters holler to him to leave so they can continue their ritual. They usually slam the door in his face.
Patsy does fancy Ada but is too shy and cowardly to make a move until one day Breda invites him into the apartment while Ada is either asleep or at work at the fish cannery. Ada arrives to find Patsy in the apartment so she orders him to strip to his underwear where by Clara proceeds to wash him from head to toe. Once Patsy is ‘cleansed,’ he is ordered to put on the same suit that was worn by the musician who had sex with Breda and jilted Clara many years ago.
Patsy and Ada are still so shy and fearful that a union seems impossible until Patsy jumps upon the kitchen table. He finds a wired microphone on the ceiling and proceeds to sing a rock/blues tune. There are hints that Ada and Patsy may yet escape the devastating cycle of heartache. See the show to find out what ultimately happens. Walsh’s work has profound depictions of love won and lost as well as rich lonely based humor. The work demonstrates the human need to connect with one another outside oneself before lunacy and madness captures our hope and dreams.
The cast of The New Electric Ballroom do wonderful work with each player having their moments. Sporting fine Irish brogues, Kate Buddeke plays Breda with a heighten sense of sexuality while Laurie Larson’s Clara is a touch mad and Kirsten Fitzgerld’s Ada is shy, distant and subdued. Guy Swearingen’s Patsy is insecure, honest yet shy. This is superbly raw and totally truthful theatre featuring lyrical language and quirky characters. It is provocative, funny, and sad. We feel their pain. The play asks “Are we safer alone?” Are these sisters crazy or just lonely? You be the judge.
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Ave., Chicago, IL, www.aredorchidtheatre.org, tickets $25 – $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 95 minutes without intermission, through march 6, 2011