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A CurtainUp Review
By Jenny Sandman

We are free to choose, and we are always wrong. --
Vincent Doherty (at piano), Andrew Bennett
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
"I used to like being alone," begins George Foley in Michael West's new play, named after its sole character. Foley is a man torn; he was raised Irish Protestant, converted to Catholicism for his ex-wife, and found both religions to be bereft of any real meaning or relevance. Now, with no family and no wife to turn to, he is being consumed by his own emptiness. For Foley, home is the place that makes you angry.

It's a simple play, with one character and one story. Foley, played admirably by Andrew Bennett, shuffles about the nearly-bare stage in his bathrobe, telling us of his life and his family. His parents, part of a dwindling minority of upper-class Irish Protestants, were emotionally distant and too involved in their own issues to pay much attention to Foley. He resents their coldness, finding refuge in his younger sister. But when his sister dies, he is left adrift, and turns to a woman he doesn't really love for solace. When he realizes that marrying her would involve conversion, the one act guaranteed to ostracize him from the family, he gladly becomes Catholic. But the marriage doesn't last, and he is unable (and unwilling) to attempt any reconciliation with his parents. Cut off from his roots, he cannot come to terms with his past or his anger, and so is denied any self-knowledge or healing.

As Foley tells his story, he postulates upon the always-elusive relationship between memory and truth, wandering between what really happened, what he wanted to happen, and what should have happened. It is an elegiac play-- half-eloquent, half-disingenuous-- backed up with plaintive piano music and moody lighting.

The language and imagery are beautiful, and there is something inherently comforting about listening to a lilting Irish brogue for any length of time. Bennett is best when he is impersonating his family; indeed, these scenes provide some much-needed comic relief.

West shows real talent as a writer, but the play lacks movement or tension. Despite Bennett's fine acting, there is little to hold the audience's attention. At best it is passive; at worst, stagnant. It is an 85-minute soliloquy about the past, after all, and since Foley readily identifies himself as an unreliable narrator, there is no real reason for us to become caught up in his story. And so Foley is left alone, again.

Written by Michael West
Directed by Annie Ryan
Starring Andrew Bennett
Music by Vincent Doherty
Lighting Design by Eamon Fox
Costume Design by Suzanne Cave
The Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street; 212-727-2737
Running time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, without intermission
Tickets $35-40
3/11/03-4/19/03; opening 3/12/03
Tuesday through Saturday at 8, Wednesday at 2, Saturday and Sunday at 3
Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on March 12th performance
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