A touching Irish play — Da

A touching Irish play — Da

Da pic3

Last days to catch this Tony award-winning play!

Now playing at the Sierre Madre Playhouse.

First staged in 1978, Da is a comedy play by Irish playwright Hugh Leonard. Subtitled “An Irishman”™s tale of life, love and one pesky ghost,” Leonard”™s autobiographical play had its New York City premiere at the off-off-Broadway Hudson Guild Theatre. This production transferred to Broadway shortly after the completion of its run.

The main protagonist, an expatriate writer named Charlie, represents playwright Leonard himself. His play is largely set in Charlie”™s family home in Dalkey, County Dublin, in 1968. There are numerous flashbacks to times and places remembered from his youth. The play deals with Charlie’s relationships with the two father figures in his life: “Da” (an old-fashioned Irish nickname meaning “Daddy” or “Papa”), who is his adoptive father, and Drumm, a cynical civil servant who becomes his mentor.

When Charlie, a writer who’s been living in London for many years, returns to his boyhood home in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, after the death of his adoptive father, he finds that the tiny claustrophobic house is filled with the ghosts of his parents and of his younger self. He also finds his father’s ghost stubbornly unwilling to leave the house. “˜Da”™ might be dead, but he won”™t shut up! Charlie interacts with all the ghosts, relives important moments from his youth and comes to grips with his complicated feelings for his adoptive parents. As the events of Charlie’s youth and Da’s troubled relationship with Mother are replayed, we discover the darkly comic, bittersweet relationship that existed between father and son. Through Charlie’s conversations and interactions with these ghosts and examination of his past, we see both why he loved his parents and why he was so eager to leave them far behind.

Amusing at times – especially in Act II – it is difficult to understand why Hugh Leonard’s play was so acclaimed. Da won Drama Desk, New York Critics’ Circle and Tony awards for Best Play. My main complaints concern the tendency for Charlie to address the audience directly on occasion, which is jarring at times, as well as the jumbled way in which the ghosts of Charlie”™s past populate the stage. Charlie”™s visions and conversations, with not only his deceased parents but also himself as a younger fellow, give the play an unusual structure and an odd sense of logic that I was unable to wrap my head around.

One scene that takes us out of the family home, when young Charlie has an encounter with a young local lass named Mary Tate (dubbed “The Yellow Peril”), was a real delight. Lila Dupree portrayed this conflicted girl extremely well, bringing an emotional depth to this scene. Her shift towards warmth when “˜Da”™ wins her over by treating her like a person instead of an object added to the humanity of this fine scene.

Directed by Bill Mesnik, Da also stars Rees Pugh as Charlie, David Doty as Da, Amelia White as the Mother, John Harnagel as Drumm, an old employer, Karen Kähler as Charlie”™s father’s former employer, Austin Grehan as Oliver and T.J. Marchbank as the younger Charlie.

Save for a bit of fluffing of lines on opening night, the entire cast does fine job bringing to life this passionate and personal play.

Sierra Madre Playhouse
87 West Sierra Madre Boulevard
Sierra Madre, CA 91024-2462
(626) 355-4318

LAST DAYS! Playing Friday April 16th and Saturday April 17th at 8pm.

Review by Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.



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