Heading to New York this month? Check out Irish theatre offerings

Holly Fein & Brian D'Arcy in a scene fro The Ferryman, winner of the 2019 Best Play Tony Award

By R. J. Donovan
Special to the BIR

If your summer vacation plans include a trip to New York City this month, you’ve got some great theatrical entertainment choices.

“The Ferryman,” playing at the Bernard Jacobs Theater on West 45th Street, just won The Tony Award for Best Play.

Written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Academy and Tony Award winner Sam Mendes, “The Ferryman” is set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1981.

Quinn Carney’s rural family farmhouse is getting ready for the annual harvest. A night of feasting and revelry lies ahead – until a dead body is discovered.

Is this Quinn’s brother? One of The Disappeared, allegedly abducted and murdered by the IRA? Prior to becoming a farmer, Quinn was an IRA activist. Now his past is roaring back at full throttle to haunt him.

“The Ferryman” is an experience in exceptional storytelling. The Hollywood Reporter commented, “This crackling thriller positively thrums with life and love. It will leave you breathless.”

The cast includes Brian d’Arcy James as Quinn, along with Fionnula Flanagan, Blair Brown, Holley Fain, and Fred Applegate. The show is ending its very successful run on July 7, so make your plans now.

At the Irish Repertory Theater, 132 West 22nd Street, you’ll have two choices this month.

Currently onstage is the world premiere of “Yes! Reflections of Molly Bloom,” adapted for the stage by Aedín Moloney and Colum McCann from James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. Aedín Moloney also stars in this one-woman show.

“Yes” is set in the bedroom of a Dublin row house on June 17, 1904, and delves into the soul of Joyce’s long-suffering, sensual hero, Molly Bloom.

As Ulysses fans know, Molly is the focus of the novel’s final “episode,” an uninhibited, 50-page stream of consciousness soliloquy. With poetic insight, it touches on love and loss, infidelity, aging, God and the role of women in the world. Its final word is “Yes.”

The novel was written more than one hundred years ago, but Molly’s musings are as vital now as they were then. And the play itself has an interesting history. Aedín Moloney read Ulysses when she was growing up and became so fascinated by the work that she began developing her own interpretation.

In 2003, she was invited to perform passages from the novel at an event staged by Joyce enthusiast Colum McCann. Aedín subsequently created and in 2017 released a recording called “Reflections of Molly Bloom.” The piece was accompanied by music from her father, Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains. This led to the Irish Rep world premiere, in association with Gabriel Byrne.

“Yes” runs through July 7, after which, Irish Rep will present “Little Gem” from July 17 – Sept. 1.

“Little Gem” was award-winning Irish playwright Elaine Murphy’s debut work.

Directed at the Irish Rep by Marc Atkinson Borrul, this poignant comedy looks at three generations of Dublin working-class women, each experiencing turmoil, due, in part, to an unseen male partner. The production unfolds through three skillfully interwoven monologues.
We meet grandmother Kay, “on the wrong side of sixty, but not dead yet,” whose distant husband has suffered a stroke and requires constant care. Daughter Lorraine is fighting anxiety and facing therapy after an emotional crisis at work. And granddaughter Amber is an alcoholic substance abuser who suddenly finds herself pregnant.

Over the course of a year’s time, they witness how intricate a family can be and ultimately find support in one another.

The Guardian applauded a previous production in London, noting that Murphy writes “with sparky humor and genuine tenderness.”
R. J. Donovan is editor and publisher of onstageboston.com.
Info: theferrymanbroadway.com; and irishrep.org.

Editor's note: This article has been amended to include the correct name of the director of "Little Gem," Marc Atkinson Borrul.