The Irish spirit is in full force at The Studio Theater in Portland, where the American Irish Repertory Ensemble is closing out its 10th anniversary season with Hugh Leonard’s “Da.” And the production hits the spot like a really good cup of tea.

“Da” delivers a touching reminder that loved ones aren’t really dead and gone, but live on in our hearts and minds. For Charlie (Christopher Holt), his recollections entertainingly manifest on stage.

The play is set in 1968 in Dalkey, down the coast from Dublin, Ireland. Charlie now lives in England, and was not around when his 85-year-old father died. After returning for the funeral, Charlie is “haunted” by his Da (Tony Reilly).

As Charlie ambles through his memories and current feelings with Da, the audience is introduced to Charlie’s Ma (Susan Reilly); his younger self (Thomas Ian Campbell); his first boss, Mr. Drumm (Paul Haley); his childhood friend Oliver (Eric Worthley); his first sexual crush, Mary Tate (Marie Stewart); and his father’s longtime employer, Mrs. Prynne (Patricia Mews).

Adding to the fun, Charlie doesn’t just remember the people in his past; he is able to physically interact with them on stage, in the present.

The audience laughed Friday as Da ridiculously attempted to pour tea with his elbows after burning his hand picking up the wood stove-heated teapot. Charlie watched with a priceless look of exasperation as he sat at the table, finalizing paperwork after the funeral.

Holt, as Charlie, was animated throughout the performance, exuding a hearty dose of Irish charm, mixed with droll wit.

“I modeled myself after Gary Cooper, but always came across as Peter Lorre,” he quipped as Charlie, reminiscing with Worthley’s Oliver.

As the play progressed, the audience saw Charlie at various stages of life, ranging from a 7-year-old boy exclaiming, “My Da is an Einstein,” to a disenchanted man in his 40s.

Campbell stepped into Charlie’s shoes as a teenager and young man, perfectly playing up his character’s adolescent embarrassment at his parents. His interaction with his older self, Holt, provided an amusing twist. Who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to have a drink with one’s younger self?

Stewart spiced things up as the object of Charlie’s desire, and Haley was delightfully deadpan as Mr. Drumm.

AIRE’s artistic director, Tony Reilly, and managing director, Susan Reilly, as the title character and his wife were an unending source of entertainment Friday.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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