Fishamble’s Tiny Plays for Ireland and America traveled to the Irish Arts Center in New York for one night, immediately after a two-night stint (May 24 & 25) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC, as part of the Kennedy Center’s IRELAND 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture.
At first I wondered what would an evening of so many short plays in rapid succession – 20 + intermission + 6 – be like; would it fly? Two things convinced me to give it a go: (1) the fact that it was a Fishamble creation, and (2) Steve Blount – who was so terrific in 2014 together with Janet Moran, his co-creator and fellow actor, in Swing (another Fishamble production) – would be part of the cast.
The authors of the first 20 plays, each lasting around three or four minutes, include Joseph O’Connor, Colin Murphy, Colum McCann and Maeve Binchy.
They cover a variety of topics (a drunk man waiting to be seen in the emergency room, a divorced father lurking outside a school hoping to catch a glimpse of his child, two opposing divorce lawyers with the hots for each other) but many of the contemporary plays, written within the past four years, are seeped in the post-Tiger, post-boom reality.
The first 20 plays were performed by Steve Blount, Sorcha Fox, Emmet Kirwan, Ronan Leahy, and Mary Murray. Sets and costumes were minimal. For some plays, the actors carried the script in hand. Given the variety of subjects and emotions in the plays, it was impressive to witness only five people portraying so many characters and with such range and polish.
The second batch of plays were commissioned by the Kennedy Center this year:
As President Kennedy’s 100th birthday approaches on May 29, 2017, the Kennedy Center invites everyone living in the United States to write an original play of 500 words or less examining his legacy as it lives on in the country today and responding to the call, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
For the second half of the evening, the actors Joey Ibanez, Christopher Lane, Kellie McCants and Carlos Saldaña took to the stage for the American plays. These dealt with new immigrants, second generation Irish-Americans, race and the Peace Corps. The youngest playwright of this batch was age 11.
I will confess I was getting fidgety as we neared the intermission time, but after stretching my legs outside for a few minutes during the break, and playing with the cat who visited from next door, I went back for the new batch of plays and I was glad I did.
The American plays were a sweet coda to the night, a bow that tied up the American connection to the Irish works in the first half. Once again, the IAC presented a little theater gem, unique and imaginative.