note: entire contents copyright 1999 by John Geoffrion
A Review by John Geoffrion
The Players' Ring is playing host to two variations on a theme of love -- with an Irish twist -- known as Brian Friel's "Lovers" through this coming weekend, and is worth a look.
"Lovers" combines two one-act plays, the first titled "Winners," and the second "Losers." The structures and the moods of the two pieces differ, but both offer a view of love tempered by a trace of tragedy and pessimism.
The first piece, "Lovers," features a teenage couple, Joe and Mag, who spend a wistful morning on a hilltop overlooking their hometown studying for their upcoming exams. Mag is pregnant, and the two plan to be married as soon as school is finished.
A sour counterpoint is provided by a man (Thorpe Feidt) and a woman (Lori Runions) dispassionately reporting the tragic fate of the young lovers. The audience, being aware of what awaits them, cannot help but be moved by the poignancy of couple's optimistic plans for the future, their arguments, their making up.
Kate Kosteva, as Mag, is a very talented actress, and injects her portrayal with passion and zeal. Mike Beaman has many strong moments as Joe, but suffers a bit from inexperience, and just needs to learn to control his nervous energy and to slow down. This will come with time.
The second piece, "Losers," has a much more deliberately comic tone. Tim Robinson turns in a masterful performance as Andy Tracey, a buffoonish middle- aged gentleman courting the plain spinster Hanna Wilson (a charming Kristan Raymond). The barrier between them is Hannah's elderly, bedridden and very very Catholic mother (Maureen Carey) upstairs, who interrupts any silence downstairs with a loud bell. The way they work around her is the evening's comic highlight.
Deborah Betko is solid as the elderly Mrs. Wilson's very very Catholic friend Cissy, although her character is rather useless. Maureen Carey needs to be more of a manipulative villain; otherwise the plotting of Andy and Hanna comes across as mean-spiritedness. And she needs to speak up.
The entire company is to be commended, however, for consistent Irish accents.
"Lovers" is a production of Independent's Day, one of the many groups that are offered a place to perform by the producer of the Players' Ring, Gary Newton. It runs through April 4th, with performances at 8pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and at 7pm on Sunday. The Players' Ring is located on Marcy Street in Portsmouth, between Prescott Park and Strawbery Banke. Call (603) 436-8123 for reservations.