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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Loyal Women

He (Terry) was the great love of my life. The only one, in fact, if you must know. And my other great love was my country and look how that turned out. You could say both of them have let me down. — Brenda

Loyal Women-LA
A scene from Loyal Women
For those who thought violence in Northern Ireland had ended, a dirty little secret is spilled by one of the region's most renowned playwrights, Gary Mitchell. His play Loyal Women has sent him and his family into hiding under British government protection.

The play is in the home of Brenda (Rebecca Marcotte) who lives set in present day Rathcoole, a small blue-collar neighborhood. She's a woman of the sandwich generation, whose house is crowded with her elderly ailing mother-in-law, Rita (Rebecca Wackler) and her angry teen-age daughter Jenny (Amanda Deibert) with her baby. There are also some unwanted visitors: her husband Terry (Dan Conroy), just released from a 16-year prison term for murder and members of the women's paramilitary organization, an auxiliary of the Ulster Defense Association (UDA). The UDA auxiliary is led by Branch Head Maureen (Casey Kramer), a soft-spoken authoritative woman, Gail (Josie DiVincenzo, a stunning menacing beauty, and Heather (McKerrin Kelly), a psychotic sadist who salivates watching torture and, even more, inflicting it. The only person Brenda likes to see, but doesn't have much time for, is Mark (Barry Lynch), a big, shambling man who loves her deeply.

Her violent reaction to Terry's return is seemingly instigated by his one-night stand with Heather and her life is further complicated by her enforced election to replace Maureen as new head of the women's auxiliary. The men of the UDA, who really call the shots, want a more civilized face than the fierce Gail, who can't separate herself from Heather. The two of them swagger around like Mafiosos which may be part of the problem.

Mitchell's picture of this crowded three-generational house provides a realistic background to the women's actions, decreed by the UDA. They're to punish young Adele (Lisa Dobbyn) for having a Catholic boyfriend.

Under Sean Branney's direction, the excellent cast keeps the action so riveting and suspenseful that it overcomes a few of the more melodramatic and questionable plot twists. Although it's true that the poverty of such small towns as Rathcoole perpetuates the violence that makes superheroes of people who would have no status or money otherwise, it seems unlikely that Brenda believes Terry went to prison, not to protect her, but to escape from a house full of women.

Mitchell successfully builds to the real tragedy of the play as Brenda, who has transformed herself from a violent willing soldier into a caring sensible woman, finds herself in a stunning climax not an inch away from the horrors of home. Rebecca Marcotte finds the strength and femininity of Brenda, whose love for her infant granddaughter and care for her aged mother-in-law and difficult daughter, make her a natural leader, trusted by the community. Delbert proves herself an actress of great resources, ranging from Jenny's fury and frustration to a childlike eagerness for her father's love and desire to belong to the women's club. As Heather, McKerrin Kelly is one of the scariest presences to stalk a stage in recent memory. DiVincenzo is mesmerizing and fierce as Gail. Kramer holds the stage with quiet authority as Maureen. Rebecca Wackler, always completely credible, makes Rita a wily old woman who has learned how to get her own way and pull out her strength when she needs to. Dan Conroy radiates the husky charisma that makes Brenda's statement that he was the love of her life believable. Barry Lynch is a lovable presence in a part that doesn't give him much to do.

Brian Danner provided excellent fight choreography on a shabby authentic set designed by Arthur MacBride. For contemporary conflict and drama, this is a play that should not be missed. At the risk of importing angry UDA members, Hollywood should pick up something with so many wonderful parts for women.

For a review of the London production of this play go here

Playwright: Gary Mitchell
Director: Sean Branney
Cast: Rebecca Wackler (Rita), Rebecca Marcotte (Brenda), Amanda Deibert (Jenny), Barry Lynch (Mark), Casey Kramer (Maureen), McKerrin Kely (Heather), Josie DiVincenzo (Gail), Dan Conroy (Terry), Lisa Dobbyn (Adele)
Set Design: Arthur MacBride
Lighting Design: Mary O'Sullivan
Costume Design: Laura Brody
Fight Choreography: Brian Danner
Sound Design: Declan Doherty
Running Time: Two and a half hours, one intermission
Running Dates: October 27-December 2, 2007
Where: Theatre Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Avenue, Burbank, Reservations: (818) 846-5323
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on November 3.


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