note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
"Translations" is without a doubt Brian Friel's master work. While masquerading it as a pastoral drama, Friel packs a ;political punch into the play as powerful as dynamite. Instead of railing and ranting about the British occupation of Ireland, Friel quietly illustrates tyranny in a luminous play about spirit and language.
The translations of the title are the names British engineers and map makers contrive to take the place of their original Irish names ... new place names which make the Irish strangers in their own country ... "prisoners" of a language they don't speak. Towns, squares, mountains, valleys, and people --- all are renamed. As one of the British engineers comes to realize, it serves as a diabolical "eviction of sorts".
The Vokes production shines from start to finish: from Stephen McGonagle's sod and stone schoolroom (with upstairs living quarters) to Daniel Clawson's fine soft lighting (and gorgeous blue sky!) to the vivid, charismatic performances.
Director John Barrett's cast is a pleasure to watch. Grant Evans Wood is a perfect as the brooding, sensitive school teacher who lost his mobility --- and will lose it again, in another sense --- because of his father. Robert Zawistowski gives a larger-than-life performance as this dreamer/pater familias. James Barton is dangerously charming as his other son, the one who sells out to the English --- and later regrets it.
Ed Yopchick is hilarious as a somewhat long-in-the-tooth "infant prodigy"/ Melissa Sine is lovely and spunky as the beautiful redhead loved by both the young schoolmaster and a handsome British lieutenant --- Bob Williams in a dashing and wistful performance.
David frank inspires chills as the "ramrod" straight, cold-blooded English Captain. Brian McNamara makes the happy-go-lucky Doalty a character of substance and mystery, and Kate Mahoney, too fleshes out a minor role and gives a lithe performance --- but it is Francine Davis who breaks your heart (without saying a word!).
You won't see better ensemble work anywhere. The Vokes crew makes their "Translations" transcendent. Don't miss it.