note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey
As you enter the theatre for the Sugan's American premiere of Tom Murphy's "Bailengangaire" the first thing you notice is the spare kitchen at one end of the set and the comfy, soft bed at the other. J. M. Griggs has fashioned a bare bones living quarters for Mommo and her grand-daughter --- which reminded me of the Sugan's chilling production last year of "The Beauty Queen of Lenane". Where "Beauty Queen" explored a dark and dangerous mother-daughter relationship, "Bailegangaire" offers hope for us all.
The future looks bleak for Mommo's two grand-daughters: one has sacrificed her own living to care for the bedridden old lady and the other, although she escaped, hasn't fared well in the outside world. When the caretaker complains about her burden, her sister reminds her that "no one who came out of this house had it easy."
While the sisters wrangle, Mommo cheerfully waxes on from her bully bed/pulpit about various and sundry misfortunes, whether or not anyone is listening. Mommo doesn't need an audience. (We, of course, hang on her every confusing word.) She embroiders on "An aberration of a notion" and has a "serious chuckle" over hazy memories of the past. Her grand-daughter calls the long-playing, repetitious monologue "an unfinished symphony" and we're off on a wild scherzo which we don't fully understand, with its missing connections --- but it's clear Mommo understands her fugues.
Director Carmel O'Reilly explains that we're not meant to understand Mommo's flights of fancy; we need to feel them. That we do, chiefly because of Nancy E. Carroll's extraordinary performance. She makes Mommo's ravings spellbinding, hilarious and even joyous. (When her Mommo demonstrates her repertoire of laughs, it Is music!)
Natalie Rose Liberace gives a moving, nuanced performance as the exasperated, longsuffering caretaker. Judith McIntyre practically dances across the stage with every step, she is so wired. Kudos to O'Reilly for the sprightly pace and for the radiant, hopeful ending.