L to R: Adam Haas Hunter, Tim Cummings, Brie Eley Photo: Theater Banshee
Producing the plays of Enda Walsh is no small feat. They can be oblique and surreal and are always multilayered in the way that one can see them time and again and always discover something new. And if having multiple dramaturgical balls in the air isn’t enough of a challenge, most of the plays have comic elements as well. So that Theater Banshee in Burbank has pulled off a staging of Walsh’s The Walworth Farce
and done it so well is reason to be excited. It is certainly a reason to travel to Burbank. The play has been seen in Los Angeles before by Walsh’s home company, The Druid Theater in Dublin, who presented the play in 2009 as part of the much missed UCLA Live International Theater Festival that vanished from the scene over a year ago to be replaced by nothing. That performance
, starring Michael Glenn Murphy, Tadhg Murphy, Raymond Scannell, and Mercy Ojelade under the direction of Michael Murfi was nothing short of spectacular. And Tim Byron Owen’s version at Theater Banshee does much more than provide an occasion to reminisce about its illustrious predecessor.The Walworth Farce
deals with a particularly dysfunctional family, a father and his two sons, who are indeed, dysfunctional in their own very unique way. Walsh throws the audience right into the middle of the psychological trappings of this triad and slowly clues the audience in about the strangeness that is unfolding in this small, dirty London flat. By the time a stranger calls at the end of Act I, the play within a play presents itself more clearly just as the deeper meaning of the show unfolds. Walsh is taking on big game here like Irish identity, family dynamics, the actor’s process. The Walworth Farce
can be very funny and very disturbing with little warning but it is always gripping.
Theater Banshee has assembled a wonderful young cast. Tim Cummings is the unhinged father Dinny and plays opposite Adam Haas Hunter as Sean and Kevin Stidham as Blake. (Stidham is sharing the role of Blake with Cameron J. Oro who is scheduled to appear in the remainder of the show's run.) These are harrowing parts that involve comic timing and all three availed themselves of extremely challenging parts that involve both farce and extreme emotional states. Hunter and Stidham both manage a boyishness in their parts that underscores the family dynamics the play hinges on. Brie Eley plays the interloper Hayley and was excellent as the audience’s reference to the world outside this very strange apartment. Director Owen took an approach that softened some of the sharper edges of that world to focus on the family tragedy at the heart of the play. It’s a take that didn’t always draw the sharpest jabs from the farce components of the script and may have inadvertently de-emphasized some of Walsh’s broader commentary about Irish identity, but his is nonetheless an admirable approach and one definitely worth experiencing if you haven’t been exposed to this play before. This is another chance we Angelenos are getting to see the work of one of Ireland’s—and the world’s—most important living playwrights, so take advantage of this very strong offering on one of the Friday, Saturday, or Sunday performances between now and September 4.
Labels: LA Theater Reviews