note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
The title of the Conor McPherson play "This Lime Tree Bower" --- currently up at the BCA in a crackling production directed by Carmel O'Reilly for Sugan Theatre Company --- is taken from the Coleridge poem "This Lime tree Bower My Prison." As the lights come up, three men appear on stage at the boundary of J. Michael Griggs' black, bleak bare-wall set, the blackness only broken by six faint white-on-white rectangles/paintings.... as if each doesn't know or care that the others are there...is if they're in prison? or in the mind's eye? in another time?
Then each begins his story. At first it seems the three are not connected to each other, as if Jeff Benish's lighting/shadows move them from one corner to another. Then we discover they do know each other. They were all involved in an incident one night, which, in the telling, will have you on the edge of your seat, wanting to know every detail.
McPherson demonstrates, with very little action and no set --- although you'd swear you saw the graveyard, it's described so vividly --- that I spark is all you need to create dramatic fire. As one of the characters says about story telling "The Irish would rather make something up than tell the truth." What a suspenseful yarn it is, this story of dark deeds and double dealing.
O'Reilly's cast is first rate. Nathanael Gundy exudes innocence as the rosy cheeked teenager who comes of age when his charming but larcenous brother (a luminous performance by Ciaran Crawford) involves him after the fact in a crime. Aiden Parkinson can't miss in Julie Heneghan's playboy get-up, the focus of which is a pair of hip, black-rimmed, sleazy dark glasses worthy of Michael Caine's in "Alfie". Parkinson is the quintessential know-it-all, disdainful of his students, his fellow professors, and especially anyone more proficient than he. He begrudges a visiting linguistic luminary both his fame and his theory, and sets out to embarrass him in public.
He plans a clever put-down but you'll have to see the play to see what's "cultivated" --- as he's fond of saying. Suffice it to say, without props or set your attention is heightened.... You'll leave the theater buzzing from all the images you've absorbed, invigorated by the impact.