April 3, 2011

Theater Review: 'Brendan' reveals theater's sweet side

By STEVE FEENEY

Whether he finds something to be "awesome" rather than "grand" may be one of the minor indicators to determine how far along a recent Irish immigrant is in psychologically transitioning to life in America.

THEATER REVIEW

“BRENDAN”

WHO: American Irish Repertory Ensemble

WHERE: The Studio Theater at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland

DATE REVIEWED: Friday; runs through April 16

TICKETS: $15-$20

CONTACT: 799-5327; www.airetheater.com

Such considerations, small and large, form the basis for Ronan Noone's 2007 play "Brendan," the latest offering from the American Irish Repertory Ensemble.

Directed by Tony Reilly, the play's a bit toward the softer side of this sturdy theater company's recent fare. Of course, there is some sex, hard drinking and rough language to be seen and heard. But, as many have said, the word that comes to mind most often when one seeks to describe this play is "sweet."

The no-intermission play's 36 scene changes may threaten, at times, to distract. But spotlighted asides by the title character, delivered in the form of a letter to his sister, do help to focus things.

The overall theme of the play -- that "as long as we are good, just a good person, then we're all right" -- is certainly hard not to like.

Having left Ireland under difficult circumstances, Brendan walks the streets of Boston feeling like he's "neither here nor there." He hangs on to a painting job and visits a hooker more for companionship than anything else.

As played to near perfection by Michael Dix Thomas, Brendan is a painfully shy young man who, after spending too much time drinking and looking for faces that remind him of the old country, finally gets some annoying but valuable direction from the ghost of his recently deceased mother.

Susan Reilly plays the mom who offers commentary and advice as her son visits and is visited by a number of characters with whom he never quite fully connects. Reilly conjures an Irish version of that universal mother who wants the best for her child to the point of nearly overwhelming him.

Some of the funniest scenes in this laugh-filled 90-minute play come when she tries to give Brendan direction in his awkward dealings with the opposite sex.

Kerry Rasor is a hoot as the brassy hooker with a heart of gold who teaches Brendan how to drive (an important step in his acquiring a stateside identity). It turns out her Maria "knows" most of her young friend's acquaintances and is able to exert a little influence when it's needed.

April Singley, as love interest Rose, is a subtly persistent sweetheart who knows how to be constructively "stubborn" when taking their relationship to the next level. One may be reminded of a young Winona Ryder when seeing Singley in action.

Seth Berner, JP Guimont, Tara McCannell and Nicholas Schroeder round out the spirited cast in this gently uplifting little play.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)