note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark
Set Design by J. Michael Griggs
Lighting Design by Jeff Benish
Costume Design by Julie Heneghan
Production Stage Manager Maureen Lane
By now Irish-theater junkies must know that Conor McPherson tells stories. In his "St. Nicholas" The Sugan Theatre's Richard McIlvain all alone onstage told what felt like two different stories; in "The Weir" three of four people onstage each told a story while the others (and the audience) sat in rapt attention. In "This Lime Tree Bower" (None of McPherson's titles make any sense whatever except to himself) three very different men tell the same story but, because they are different, a lot of their tangential lives get mixed in with the telling. Sometimes they react a bit when the teller mentions something about them, but it's really a set of three monologues, broken into pieces and handed on from person to person over the two acts, on a nearly empty set by J. Michael Griggs. And though each different man is garrulously interesting, Carmel O'Reilly's staging of the piece suggests that this, instead of McPherson's first play, been the first one Sam Beckett set his hand to.
The first of the men's really a boy. Nathaniel Gundy's Joe is a good lad peeking over the edge of adolescence at a world of sex and grown-ups his Catholic suppressions and genuine innocence holds him back from experiencing. His opening monologue may go better back in Ireland, where references to shared school experiences quite foreign to Americans might trigger sniggers of recognition in what, here in Boston, might be an unexciting travelogue lecture. The center of his life seems to be envy of an interesting older boy doing --- at least bragging about --- all the things Joe would like to be old enough, bold enough to enjoy. He does take a long time getting to the point, though.
Now Aidan Parkinson (playwright and pub-crawler) who plays Ray has the best Irish accent here, but he cheats 'cause he was born there. Ray's this reprobate philosophy teacher who might well be Joe's adolescent dream come true, what with his fuckin' and drinkin' his way through the co-ed crop --- an arrogant shite of a man he is; and the center of his life is his hope of scoring put-down points off a famous old philosopher coming to give a lecture. He knows Joe 'cause he's sleepin' with his sister when she'll let him, and anyone else when she won't.
Ciaran Crawford plays Joe's older brother Frank, who tends their father's chips-shop --- a settled steady guy most times, until he sees his poor drink-addled dad's bein' leaned on by a loan-sharkin' bookie runs a bettin' shop up the street. So the center of Frank's life becomes gettin' 's Da out of hock by performing a bit of quick and dirty armed robbery on the old bookie hisself. No idea what put that in's head, I haven't.
Well, yeah, it is at bottom a fine story full of quirks and turns, but as I say there's a great lot of great long digressions along the way, and once this McPherson fella finally gets the bit in his teeth both the story and the digressions seem almost like a play. Pity the walls are grey concrete-blocks so there's nothin to look at, and the director can't think of much to make these conversationalists move about much --- so you may find yourself noticin Jeff Benish's lights shifting from full-stage to more narrowed areas, maybe in an attempt to avoid monotony.
But it's a fine story all the same, and I won't tell it. I'll only say little Joe didn't rape that girl, some blokes deserve to be stuck up, Ray come by just in the nick of time, and they all had the week-end of their lives up in Cork. You wanta know more, let them tell their own story in Conor McPherson's words. They do it much better than ever I could.