Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Donahue Sisters"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"The Donahue Sisters"

by Geraldine Aron
Directed by Nora Hussey

Sound Design by Nora Hussey
Stage Manager Maureen Lane

Annie....................Marie Jackson
Dunya....................Jennifer Jones
Rosie................Rosemary Ryding

It's over twenty years since I've seen a play in the back room of a pub. The summer of '72 I learned there were lots of pubs in London where for 60p --- the price of a pint of Courage Mild --- you could get lunch, and for the same again see a one-act. If you worked it right you could see a lunch, then a matinee, and with time off for dinner catch a third show in the evening. And we must have done that, because over ten weeks in England that year and with time out for The Stone 'enge and watching Elie Nastasi lose to Stan Smith on our friends' telly I saw sixty plays. And a lotta them lunches was eaten watching plays a lot like "The Donahue Sisters" which the QE2 Players have revised out the back of a raucous Irish bar in Davis Square called The Burren Pub.

The play unites the Donahue Sisters in their attic playroom in Southern Ireland, though they're a bit long in the tooth and the legs for the tiny furniture and tea-set, and one's become writer of successful steamy novels settled in America with permanent lover named "Guy" and another's off to Australia with kids.

When they switch from playtime tea to vodka they switch from memories to sharing secrets, and when they switch again to passing a joint those secrets focus on the peculiar dissatisfactions of their lives and love-lives. But the Donahue sisters always stick together, and all that remains is for them to go through a ritual re-enactment of their shared guilty secret of an afternoon when they were thirteen, eleven and nine, and their tormenting of a little chimney-sweep's boy got out of hand.

Does all that seem to rush past you a bit quickly, especially when the entire play takes less than an hour? Well, the company has taken it out of mothballs for a second run, so to speak, and perhaps their director Nora Hussey has not yet had a chance to restore some sort of shape and pace to what is a very swift toboggan-ride of a script. The easy banter of the outset rockets on into ever more serious matters with nary a pause for contemplation of what ought to be shocking news, and since the sister's seem not to feel it, how can the audience.

Still this is early in the run, and Marie Jackson, Jennifer Jones, and Rosemary Ryding are experienced actresses who enjoy working together. And their doll-strewn little room under four leko's is in the back room of The Burren, where it'll probably take you three Bass Ales to equal their admission price. I expect that as the run progresses they'll steady down and the ever deepening revelations of the play will become less perplexing, and more horrifying.

But isn't it nice to have theater back in an American alehouse, after all these years?


"The Donahue Sisters" (till 7 June)
The Back Room @ The Burren Pub, 247 Elm Street, SOMERVILLE

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide