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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
This play, whose title means "town without laughter", is directed by Gabrielle O'Sullivan and uses the classic Irish form of story-telling to span the lives of a grandmother and two granddaughters. Set in 1984 in an Irish village, ancient Mommo, drifting in and out of senility, tells the seminal story of her youth to her two granddaughters, Mary and Dolly. They have stories of their own but their life's patterns were hatched in a tragedy that stems from the story Mommo repeats over the course of the play— a story of the best night of her life, when she and her husband Seamus stopped at a pub far away on their way home from a marketing trip. There, in Mommo's version, Seamus won a laughing contest but the topics were misfortunes. This has a ring of the apocryphal, though misfortune certainly came of it.
Not until the second act does the play come to life dramatically, when the sisters reveal their own misfortunes. Mary, who left home to be a nurse, has returned because Mommo is her only family, in an attempt to heal a childhood wound. Dolly, who stayed there, had an equally tragic life and has never come to terms with it.
Director O'Sullivan has injected life into the play by double-casting Mommo as both the old lady in bed, played with versatility by Carol Soldo, and her younger self, in a lively and dynamic performance by Georgan George. Kristin Elliot plays the older sister Mary as intelligent and repressed and Kathyjean Harris is pouty and vulnerable as the younger sister Dolly.
The good work done by cast and director have an uphill struggle over Murphy's play structure, particularly Mommo's long monologues about the laughing contest. To attentive listeners, the poignance of life in rural Ireland and Murphy's poetic vision of misfortunes confronted by a laughing contest hang in the air more evocatively than the resolution at the end. For a detailed review, see that of the New York production here
Playwright: Tom Murphy
Director: Gabrielle O'Sullivan
Producer: Stepan Safarloo
Cast: Carol Soldo (Mommo), Kristin Elliot (Mary), Kathyjean Harris (Dolly), Georgan George (Young Mommo — Bridget)
Set & Costume Design: Maro Parian
Lighting Design: Henrik Mansourian
Running Time: Two hours, one intermission
Running Dates: March 16-April 21, 2007
Where: Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale, Reservations: (818) 500-7200.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on March 17.