Review: Ireland 100: ‘Tiny Plays for Ireland and America’ by Fishamble: The New Play Company

Fishamble: The New Play Company opened its “Tiny Plays for Ireland and America” last night as part of Ireland 100.

Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Center.

Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Act I consisted of 20 short, Irish plays in 90 minutes, and each play shed some light on life in contemporary Ireland, from a depressed economy, to changing mores, to politics.

Some actors carried scripts in hand. Some did not.

All the plays were US premiers, a part of a national call in Ireland for new scripts that addressed issues and themes that “the people” wanted addressed.

Some plays were sharp and insightful; some a bit sentimental and clichéd; most were dramatic; and a few, comic.

In the end, even though Jim Culleton’s direction was edifying, that 90-minute first act would have been well served by a throughline of some kind, and a structural imperative.

In other words, no matter how good an individual script might be, after you’ve seen a dozen of “individual scripts”, “things” seem to drag on, without the presence of an overall intent.

The Fishamble cast consisted of five strong actors: Steve Blount, Sorcha Fox, Emmer Kirwan, Ronan Leahy, and Mary Murray.

Their versatility, even with some carrying scripts in hand, was impressive.

A short Act II consisted of six plays by American authors, ranging in age from 80 to 11, each play having been inspired in some way by the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy.

The plays in the 20-minute second act all touched on some aspect of identity politics, with a dose of morality or ideology thrown in. Themes ranged from giving jobs to Syrian refugees to the struggle of undocumented immigrants, to helping others through the Peace Corp, to….

The U.S. cast consisted of Joey Ibanez, Christopher Lane, Kellie McCants, and Carlos Saldańa, as well as members of the Fishamble company.

There is no question that Fishamble’s desire to open the theatrical process up to issues and concerns shared by “the people” is not only admirable but is what ultimately what good theatre is always about, i.e., theatre as community forum. Far too much theatre, in DC anyway, reflects the concerns of a narrow bandwidth of upscale people, and is thus reduced to “entertainment” for the rest of us.

So the folks at Fishamble are on to something. Now, they just need to find a way to turn that “essential” force of good theatre into a stimulating, dynamic  evening of exploration and discovery.

Running Time: 2 hours with an intermission.

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IRELAND 100: Tiny Plays for Ireland and America plays through May 25, 2016 The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater Gallery –  2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or Toll-Free: (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.

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