EXCPERPTS FROM THE REVIEW
Below are excerpts from the September 8, 2018 DC Metro Theater Arts review of Dancing at Lughnasa by Bill Kamberger.
True magic happens not when we’re convinced that an illusion is true, but when we realize that it can’t be so yet still refuse to believe it isn’t. Such a spell is cast over the audience at Everyman Theatre from the moment it enters the house to observe Yu-Hsuan Chen’s enchanting set for Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa. Sinuous cut-outs, so beautifully stylized we immediately accept them as windswept trees, surround a lovingly detailed facsimile of an Irish cottage whose walls and roof, we surmise, have been removed to permit us to see inside – but which, we’re already certain, are still “there” in reality.
There’s a very real danger in believing what we know to be impossible, however, or even in suspending disbelief in it. When the play’s narrator, Michael (Tim Getman), finally steps through that invisible wall just as he utters the word “illusory,” it’s enough to take our breath away, challenging as it does our very notions of what is authentic, not just on Everyman’s stage but on the stage of the world as well. Moreover, it reminds us that all the other characters in the show – Michael’s parents, uncle, and four aunts – remain in the thrall of various pretty lies (and a few not-so-pretty ones) that cannot be escaped without hitting a metaphorical brick wall.
Fortunately, under the primal yet precisely choreographed direction of Amber Paige McGinnis, every actor at Everyman lives every moment of this play to the fullest, thereby making their characters’ ultimate failures seem all the more tragic. Megan Anderson portrays the most mischievous aunt, Maggie, whose silly pranks and riddles thinly disguise genuine wisdom, just as her droll demeanor barely conceals the pain of youthful promise slipping through her fingers. Bari Hochwald, as the devout and domineering but essentially good-hearted Aunt Kate, makes plain that the dubious dogmas she preaches are as child’s play compared to the untruths she tells herself.
Annie Grier embodies Aunt Agnes as a woman often swept into the background by society and even her own family, but whose quiet desperation and broken but still-beating heart are palpable to anyone who cares to notice. In what threatens to be the tasteless role of the developmentally disabled aunt, Rose, Labhaoise Magee blooms with disarming passion and prickliness.
But the most poignant figures of all are Michael’s parents, Chris (Katie Kleiger) and Gerry (Danny Gavigan). Unwed and evidently doomed never to be otherwise, they maintain a bond of affection that is stronger than many a marriage, for all the good it does them. We’re told that Chris’s “whole face alters when she’s happy” – a rare occurrence, to be sure, but one radiantly confirmed by Kleiger when the opportunity arises. And Gavigan invests Gerry with irresistible charm even when he’s failing to measure up, since we can see those failings disappoint him at least as much as they do the other people he’s letting down.
As Aunt Maggie warns us after an especially dazzling display of sleight-of-hand, “Imagination: one quick glimpse is all you get.” You have until October 7 to glimpse what is already guaranteed to be one of the most magical and memorable productions of Baltimore’s new theater season.