note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi
Anna … Carmel O’Reilly
Vera … Judith McIntyre
Fergal … Derry Woodhouse
Accompanist … Jeffrey Goldberg
Marie Jones’ WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF HRT at the Súgán Theatre is an Irish comedy about Anna and Vera, two middle-aged Belfast women who make an annual pilgrimage to Donegal to wait in line outside the home of real-life pop singer Daniel O’Donnell for a kiss and a cup of tea. Mr. O’Donnell serves as a romantic grail for Anna, a sexually frustrated housewife, and Vera whose ex-husband has married a much younger woman. Act One takes place in a hotel room where Anna alternates between hot flashes and swooning over Mr. O’Donnell’s video image and Vera bitches about her lot and flirts with Fergel, a local waiter; Act Two plays out at dawn on the beach of Donegal Bay where, backed by the baying of a banshee, Anna and Vera confront visions of people they know en route to taking charge of their lives. Act One can stand on its own as a study of two women who will always be groupies, at heart; Act Two is a shift into the cosmic and seems tacked on for a clear-eyed happy ending and a full-length evening. Still, I enjoyed WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF HRT along with the rest of the audience; Ms. Jones’ robust dialogue occasionally turns into musical commentary on the action and her portraits are lovingly realized with Anna and Vera playing verbal ping-pong while the actor who plays Fergal gets to become an O’Donnell impersonator and various conjured shapes, male and female.
Robert Scanlan has directed just as lovingly so that even Vera’s outbursts become endearing and Carmel O’Reilly and Judith McIntyre make a marvelous team with Ms. O’Reilly’s Anna as a rag doll floating down Life’s river and Ms. McIntyre’s Vera as an alley cat who, for all its spitting and scratching, yearns to warm itself at Love’s hearth. Two years ago Derry Woodhouse showed his protean side in Ms. Jones’ STONES IN HIS POCKETS, so I wasn’t surprised when he began morphing, here, as Fergal & Company; I am far more amazed at Mr. Woodhouse’s versatility that issues forth from such a gentle, pokerfaced presence --- apparently, still actors run deep.