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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at St. Ann’s Warehouse

By Bill Stevenson

  Denis Conway and Mercy Ojelade/PH: Pavel Antonov

Irish plays that feature copious amounts of storytelling are nothing new, with Conor McPherson (The Seafarer) especially fond of having his characters tell tales. The unsettling dark comedy The Walworth Farce, written by the relatively obscure Enda Walsh for Galway's Druid Theatre Company, revolves around a family's stories. But his alternately funny and frightening play is worlds apart from any of its Irish predecessors.

The setting isn't actually Ireland, but a bleak apartment near the Walworth Road in South London. Dinny (Denis Conway) and his sons Blake (Garrett Lombard) and Sean (Tadhg Murphy) seldom leave the flat. Instead, they spend their time performing, again and again, the comical yet tragic events that have befallen their family. The incidents include a relative being struck and killed by a dead horse that fell over a hedge. Blake and Sean play multiple characters, male and female, making quick changes in and out of wigs and dresses. Ringleader Dinny scolds them if they ever get a line of dialogue or bit of business wrong.

Mikel Murfi directs the fast-paced play within the play at a furious tempo, as the brothers dash about the apartment carrying coffins and other props. All three act up a storm, and Dinny usually awards himself a trophy for best performance. For most of its first act, The Walworth Farce is indeed a rollicking farce, albeit a mighty odd one.

The tone becomes darker following the arrival of Hayley (Mercy Ojelade), a cashier from the local Tesco supermarket who returns a bag of groceries. Seeing the trio's weird play through her eyes is amusing, but only briefly. Soon enough Hayley-along with the audience-realizes the danger she's in as Dinny reveals his unpredictable temper. Walsh ratchets up the stakes with violence, but it never feels gratuitous. In fact, it seems inevitable. The playwright also unravels what really happened back in the family's hometown of Cork.

A hit at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Walworth Farce is utterly original and nearly always unpredictable. It's another smart import by the folks at St. Ann's Warehouse, following the powerful Iraq drama Black Watch (which returns this fall). Propelling this Farce is a brilliant cast that masterfully handles the physical comedy and the shifts in mood. All four actors are superb, particularly Conway as the nutty dad. Their bravura performances help make this a highlight of the spring theater season.





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