Front Row Center – December 2016

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

By John Patrick Shanley
Directed By Ann Swiston


front rowThis play ran briefly on Broadway in 2014, and was nominated for a Tony Award in that year. Shanley is a talented playwright, best known as the author of Doubt – an intense and thought-provoking play which was well performed here in 2007. Here he turns his hand to an Irish love story, with some colorful language and a happy ending, as we wipe away our tears.

Ann Swiston conceived an original opening by bringing on the author to introduce his play, and Peter Luciano is entirely convincing as “John Patrick Shanley” who sets the mood for the evening and places us in the green countryside of rural Ireland.

When the play opens, “Tony Reilly” and his son “Anthony” return to their farmhouse, after attending the funeral of their neighbor. The widow “Aoife Muldoon” stops by for a few tears and a cup of tea. Of course it’s Ireland, so there’s much talk of death and much brewing of tea. Mary Hunt, in her first role at LLT, is excellent as the widow Aoife, and I hope we will see her again in future.

The acting is terrific, and, though it took me a little time to tune in to the Irish accent, I truly believed that I was in the kitchen of an Irish farm. Dave McIntosh gave one of his best performances as the old curmudgeon Tony, obstinate and lovable and determined to hold on to his land. His late wife Mary was born Mary Kelly and Tony holds that the Kelly family are known to be crazy. After all, her brother talked politics with a turkey, and then accused his dog of slander. Therefore he believes his son Anthony to be strange, and not worthy of inheriting the farm. Douglas Pinkerton is very real as the shy and withdrawn Anthony, who claims not to like people. He also says that he has no feelings, but perhaps the truth is that he feels too much.

There’s a powerful scene at the end of the first Act, when Tony is dying and asks his son to forgive him. It’s beautifully written and acted, and both actors and the director deserve much credit and applause.

When Aoife’s daughter “Rosemary” enters, we instantly know her as the driving force of the family. Deborah Spitz gives a wonderful and ultimately moving performance as Rosemary, who turns away all her suitors because she is waiting for Anthony to declare his love. Time runs slow in Ireland and it takes many years and much prodding from Rosemary in a long and revealing final scene. The language is beautiful in this play and the actors do it justice. We also had the pleasure of the song Wild Mountain Thyme, recorded by Patrick and Patricia DeGabrielle, who visited Ajijic recently for a Celtic Night performance. 

At the end of the play the author returns, perhaps unnecessarily. I felt that the climax of the play was Anthony’s message of love “Go to her” and that further words were superfluous. But the whole evening was delightful, and I congratulate Ann Swiston and her talented cast. I should also mention the set designer Ruth Kear and her creative use of the rotating stage. The Stage Manager was Win McIntosh and her Assistant was Sandy Jakubek. Next up is Chapter Two by Neil Simon, which opens on December 2. Get your tickets now!


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