Sunday, March 7, 2010

- Theater Review - Dancing at Lughnasa

As I have said before, the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse season has been simply excellent this year. They have chosen some really great plays.
All the choices have been edgy or seldom presented plays. With so many local groups doing the same things over and over, this line-up has filled a real niche in Peoria's cultural scene and defines what a "lab theater" should be.

Their final drama of the season, "Dancing at Lughnasa", can be summed up in one word....Wow!

This is the tender and engaging story of the five unmarried Mundy sisters living in Ballybeg, Ireland during the fall of 1936.

One of the sisters, Christina, has a young "love child", Michael. The adult Michael serves as the play's narrator.

The other sisters are Kate, the matriarch and bread-winner (Helen Englebrecht); mentally-challenged Rose (Katy Hawley) who along with sister, Agnes (Victoria Kapanjie-Rians) makes hand-knitted gloves for sale, and the free-spirited chef of the household, Maggie (Cheri Beever).

The sisters have recently welcomed home their older brother Jack. Father Jack is a priest who has spent the last 25 years working with lepers in Uganda. He was sent home by the church after abandoning his Catholic faith and embracing the pagan rituals of the African tribe.

The sisters are also visited by Michael's father, Gerry Evans. Gerry is a ne'er-do-well charmer who promises everything and delivers nothing.

There is one other named character in the play. Marconi is the wireless radio that delivers dance-inspiring music into the drab lives of the Mundys.

Nathan Irwin does a fine job as Gerry. Gene Bourke as Father Jack and Hugh Higgins as Michael are both excellent.

As for the Mundy sisters, these five actresses turn in virtually flawless performances. I cannot single out any one of them. Each is a good as the next in this ensemble cast.

This Corn Stock Winter Playhouse season has been a great one for strong female roles, from "The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia" through the deeply emotional women in "The Rabbit Hole", and then to close with this wonderfully rich show featuring FIVE great female characters is just the perfect choice.

"Dancing at Lughnasa" runs through next weekend. Do not miss it.

Thanks to everyone at the Playhouse for such an exceptional season!

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