The Community Players' second show of their 86th season is Brian Friel's "Dancing at Lughnasa". It is a memory play told from the point of view of Michael, the narrator and is set in the fictional town of Ballybeg in Ireland's County Donegal in August, 1936 during the pagan festival of Lughnasa. He recounts the summer in his aunts' cottage when he was seven years old and the show is seen through his eyes. The five Mundy sisters, all unmarried, live in a small cottage outside of town. Kate, the oldest, is a school teacher and the only sister with a job. Agnes and Rose who is developmentally challenged, knit gloves to be sold in town and help keep the house with Maggie and Chris (Michael's mother) who have no income at all. Recently returned home is their brother, Jack, a priest who has lived as a missionary in a leper colony in Uganda for 25 years. He is suffering from malaria and has trouble remembering many things, including his sisters' names and his English vocabulary. Gerry, Michael's father, is charming and completely unreliable. A clown and a vagabond he visits rarely and unannounced. He has another family back in Wales, although that doesn't stop him from proposing to Chris. He has returned this time to tell her he is joining the International Brigade to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Michael although he is a character in the play, doesn't appear physically onstage, but is voiced by the narrator (adult Michael) as the other actors mime his presence. The sisters all love to dance to their shortwave player which they have dubbed "Marconi".
Director Vincent Lupino teaches Michael, the narrator and the five sisters to have perfect Irish accents for their roles. Even though there are standout moments of acting prowess by his performers, the first act of this straight show seems a bit long at almost 90 minutes. Michael, the lead is played by Kevin Martin, a junior at RIC. This young man is a commanding presence throughout the show wandering in and out of the action through the aisles of the theater or onstage. His brogue is flawless as is his acting ability and Kevin recently earned himself a nomination for the Irene Ryan Scholarship. Janette Gregorian as Kate, delivers a powerful performance as the eldest sister who holds her family together. She is at ease with her comic lines but also shows off her dramatic acting chops in a tender scene at the end of Act 1 where she fears she will lose her teaching job because of Jack falling away from the Catholic Church while in Uganda. Marg Cappelli is dynamic as the constantly jovial sister who enjoys telling riddles, is the life of the party and keeps everyone from getting too annoyed with each other. Karen Kessler is excellent as Rose, the sister who was touched by the hand of God. She is mentally challenged but loves to sing and dance. Karen and Marg have some of the funniest lines in the show and they make them all count.
The other two talented sisters include Elizabeth Kirk as Agnes who feels a strong sense of duty and sisterly love for Rose. She stands up to Kate when she tries to bully Rose, calling her a controlling bitch. Agnes is secretly infatuated with Gerry. Kate Arthur plays Chris, the youngest sister who is in love with Gerry. She had his love child, Michael and continually waits for Gerry to return to marry her and buy Michael a black bicycle. Brian Mulvey plays Jack who in the first act is forgetful but improves his memory in the second act due to Kate constantly nagging him. He handles a long speech very well in the second act. Michael Champagne plays Gerry, the elegant charmer who is always lending compliments and flirting with the ladies.He captures the carefree and cadlike behavior of this bon vivant character. So for those of you want to take a trip back to Ireland in the 1930's, catch this show currently running in Pawtucket.