Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Necessary Farce

November 13, 2009

Tadhg Murphy and Raymond Scannell in The Walworth Farce
Photo: Druid Ireland 2009

I’m a firm believer that anytime you can sit in a play for 30 minutes totally caught up in what’s going on onstage and still think to yourself “What the hell is going on?” is time well spent. Such is the case with Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce which is currently in a run of five performances from the Druid Ireland company who are presenting it as part of this year’s UCLA International Theater Festival. It’s a superb play that has an awful lot going on that I don’t want to say too much about and spoil the fun.

Suffice it to say that it’s a family drama concerning a father and two sons set in a decrepit apartment that tweaks the play-within-a-play strategy to harrowing and humorous effect. The Walworth Farce is also perhaps the most psychoanalytic play I’ve seen written in the last twenty years. What’s more, Walsh is taking on much bigger targets than just the usual family secrets and destructive subjectivities. No, he’s even mining the dark psychological underpinnings of the Irish/British relationship as well, asking hard questions about the internalized self-hatred within a culture. It’s a play that owes as much to Pinter as James Joyce and Walsh repeatedly turns the stereotypical Irish love of storytelling on its head in a work that features more repeating, conflicting, and deconstructed stories than you may want to get through in one setting.

There are four actors involved here, including Michael Glenn Murphy, Tadhg Murphy, Raymond Scannell, and Mercy Ojelade all of whom are excellent with truckloads of dialog that doesn’t always flow logically from events onstage. Mike Murfi’s direction is both taut without being overly serious. And while the second act does run on just a tick longer than might be ideal, The Walworth Farce is consistently engaging and thoughtful. It has many humorous moments, but can also be chilling with little warning, calling for an approach that is loose enough to make these shifts believable. Despite its strangeness, it has an assurance and certainty that make the play familiar, although it is not. The show runs through Sunday and is highly recommended.


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