Off-Broadway Review: TWO BY SYNGE (Irish Rep)

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by Gregory Fletcher on May 8, 2022

in Theater-New York


The faces of the actors featured in J.M. Synge’s two one-act plays at the reputable Irish Repertory Theatre are a delight to watch. With Artistic Director Charlotte Moore at the helm, her cast brings to life the rarely seen The Tinker’s Wedding and In the Shadow of the Glen. The charmed actors’ character faces are filled with worn wrinkles, drooping eyelids, deepened frown lines, crow’s feet, and sad, sunken eyes. Even the younger actors look worn and struggled. Then there’s that gleam inhabited by each, filled with passion and survival, a knowing twinkle in their eye that recognizes the comedy of life amongst all its drama. Truly, what a pleasure to watch gifted actors at the top of their craft.

Sean Gormley in The Tinker’s Wedding

The ensemble is made up of old-school performers who understand that comedy must be taken seriously. They also know how to project their voices in a way that seems to be no longer taught in drama schools. This cast could easily perform these plays at the 1600 seat Majestic Theater and not need any aid of microphones or amplification. Their projection came from deep within their diaphragms — it was impressive, if not a bit annoying.

Sean Gormley, Jo Kinsella, Terry Donnelly in The Tinker’s Wedding

The plays are performed in the basement 50-seat W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre. With only five rows for the audience, it’s one of the most intimate, wonderful theater spaces I’d seen in a long while. And yet, Ms. Moore let her cast to speak to the balcony — only there wasn’t one. The earsplitting dialogue felt piercing at times, and I couldn’t help but wonder why they couldn’t just speak to one another in a manner more befitting the close setting.

Jo Kinsella, John Keating in The Tinker’s Wedding

Adorable Sean Gormley plays both the greedy priest and Dan Burke, a questionable dead body. John Keating plays the warm-hearted, well-meaning Michael Byrne and Tramp, taking hidden delight by all the female drama around him. Ciaran Bowling plays the potential lover Michael Dara and sings with a sad, heart of gold. The powerful Jo Kinsella plays two women looking for love and commitment in Sarah Casey and Nora Burke. And Terry Donnelly plays the conniving Mary Byrne and deserves, along with the rest, to be an acting national treasure, making a weekly Broadway salary.

Ciaran Bowling, Sean Gormley, John Keating, Jo Kinsella in In the Shadow of the Glen

Despite the small space, the budget and expertise for the design elements were admirable: Daniel Geggatt (sets), David Toser (costumes), Michael O’Connor (lighting), and Nathanael Brown and Kimberly S. O’Loughlin (sound). Part museum theater, part old-fashioned, New York audiences are very lucky to have forgotten classical theater produced at this high level of projection — I mean presentation.

Ciaran Bowling, John Keating, Jo Kinsella in In the Shadow of the Glen

photos by Carol Rosegg

Ciaran Bowling in In the Shadow of the Glen

photos by Carol Rosegg

Two by Synge
Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, NYC
ends on May 22, 2022
for tickets, call 212-727-2737 or visit Irish Rep

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