Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Skull in Connemara, None Too Fragile Theater

If you glance at the bottom of this page, you’ll see that the show I’m reviewing here has actually closed. You can’t see it anymore. Ever. So let this be a lesson to you.

The lesson: Theater happens, and then it’s gone. Poof. But the great thing about theater is that, when done right, it’s so powerful it stays with you long after many other art forms have exited your brain. Such is the case with A Skull in Connemara by Martin McDonagh, which closed last Saturday at None Too Fragile Theater in Akron.

Had you possessed the foresight to buy a ticket, you would have seen an almost pitch-perfect production of this dark comedy that takes place mostly in an Irish graveyard. The setting is Leenane, a village in County Galway in Ireland, and this play the second part of McDonagh’s Leenane Trilogy, which also includes The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lonesome West. (Chances are you also missed those two excellent productions at NTF, which were mounted in 2015 and 2016.)

As with the other McDonagh plays, the characters are three parts whiskey, two parts simmering grudge, four parts blarney and, critically, one part violence. And at the moment we visit them in this piece they are discussing the demise, several years before, of Mick Dowd’s wife Oona. Did she expire when riding with him while he was driving drunk, or did he deliver a dastardly blow in a drunken rage? The rumors abound.

The importance of this question has arisen because of Mick’s job. As the gravedigger for the town church, he is called upon to evict the bones of current cemetery residents, so that the small plot of land can accept newly deceased citizens. Every seven years he has to do this chore, and this time it will involve digging up his wife’s remains.

Mick is first visited by old pal Maryjohnny Rafferty, a Bingo addict who totes her fluorescent pens and is always ready for a slug of whiskey. Linda Ryan embodied this woman fully, from her painful ritual of easing herself into a chair to her volatile temper, which seems endemic to the folks in little Leenane.

Soon, they are joined by her grandson Mairton Hanlon, who has been sent over to help Mick with his digging duties. As played by Nate Homolka, Mairton was a splendidly coarse lout, and when he joined Mick in smashing the skulls and other bony parts of the bodies they’ve disinterred, with bits of stuff flying into the audience, it was like a Gallagher performance gone seriously macabre.

Mairton’s brother Thomas Hanlon also stops by, a doltish local policeman with dreams of CSI-style grandeur. Doug Kusak invested this character with just enough charm to make you also yearn for the respect he so clearly can’t earn by himself.

And as Mick, David Peacock once again crafted a persona that was perfect down to the smallest gestures and ticks (he recently, and brilliantly, played Doc in The Night Alive at Dobama Theatre).

Yes, you would have seen all those remarkable performances, had you bought a ticket. And you would have seen how skilled director Sean Derry is in all aspects of theater creation. As NTF’s co-artistic director with Alanna Romansky, he also designs sets, lights, and costumes. Plus, before every show, he pours a shot of Jameson for audience members who’d like a blast.

So make note: the next production at NTF is Salvage by local playwright George Brant, running from May 5-20. Remember, NTF is a small theater with an avid following. Tickets go fast, so plan ahead.

I hope we won’t have to have this discussion again.

A Skull in Connnemara

Through April 1 at None Too Fragile Theater, 1835 Merriman Road, Akron (enter through Pub Bricco), 330-962-5547, nonetoofragile.com

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