Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Ferryman

The Ferryman
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
December 15, 2018

Photo courtesy of The Ferryman
Playwright Jez Butterworth’s play, The Ferryman, skillfully weaves factual occurrences involving the Irish Republican Army with the lives of a poor Irish Farmer and his tight-knit family.  The outcome is an absorbing and intimate story of how a family, bonded by love and faith, can fall as their darker secrets and need for vengeance rise to the surface.  Director Sam Mendes brilliantly interprets this three hour and fifteen minute masterpiece, building the action to a stunning climax.  He successfully focuses a cast of twenty-one phenomenal actors to work as one unit, while delivering genuine and powerful individual performances.

It is 1981 in Northern Ireland.  “For five months, Republican inmates in the Maze Prison have been on hunger strikes to demand they be recognized as political prisoners.  Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has refused, and nine successive prisoners have already died in the ‘H block’.”  (from The Ferryman program notes). 

Niall Wright & Paddy Considine
Photo courtesy of The Ferryman
The Carney family welcomes the excitement of Harvest Day.  Quinn Carney (played by Paddy Considine) vigorously wakes his family for a day of hard work and joyous celebration.  Father Horrigan (played by Charles Dale) enters with news that the body of Shamus Carney, who disappeared ten years ago, has been found buried in a bog with a bullet through his head.  Caitlin (played by Laura Donnelly) decides to keep this information about her husband quiet until after the celebration.  Quinn reluctantly agrees, wanting the news of his brother’s murder shared with his family and the rest of the community.  Unfortunately, Caitlin’s fourteen year old son, Oisin (played by Rob Malone) overhears this discussion, and holds back his reaction.  When the family is visited by IRA leader Muldoon (played by Stuart Graham) during their celebration, the news is abruptly broken to the family.  Their past involvement with the IRA is revealed.  Loyalty is expected.  Revenge is desired.  Betrayal is imminent.

Laura Donnelly & Paddy Considine
Photo courtesy of The Ferryman
The cast creates the high energy, close relationships of three generations of a large Irish farming family.  They are warm, caring, boisterous, and volatile.  This environment is vital to the action of the play.  It is genuine and enthralling.  Paddy Considine plays Quinn Carney as a strong father figure with a big heart.  His sons (played by Fra Fee and Niall Wright) are vigorous and fervent.  His daughters (played by Matilda Lawler, Carla Langley, Willow McCarthy, and Brooklyn Shuck) are mischievous and inquisitive.  Laura Donnelly portrays Caitlin Carney with a strong and determined open heart.  She is an equal match to Mr. Considine.  Their chemistry is profound and joyous.

Laura Donnelly, Genevieve O'Reilly, & Paddy Considine
Photo courtesy of The Ferryman
Each of the three acts of Jez Butterworth’s play peels back numerous layers of the lives of the characters and the events of their past.  As we see how their actions are dominated by fear, we understand the political situation at that time in Ireland.  As we listen to the stories of Aunt Maggie (played by Fionnula Flanagan) about the howling of the Banshees, and the reading by Uncle Pat (played by Mark Lambert) of the myth of the souls waiting to be carried by the Ferryman across the River Styx, we understand the depth of the haunting of this family and the centuries of injustice imposed upon the Irish people.

The Ferryman is a brilliant piece of theatre.  It is masterfully written. skillfully directed, and magnificently performed.  This production is not to be missed.  Get your tickets right away!

Domenick Danza

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