I've met some boring, self-pitying, self-important, garrulous drunks in my day, but John, the central character in Conor McPherson's
, presented by Amaryllis Theatre Company, takes the cake.
And there we are, trapped for nearly two hours, listening to him go on and on about how awful a father he was, how dreadful a husband he was, how mean-spirited a friend he is, how terrifying his childhood was, how . . . well, you get the picture. All you can think is: Where's the door?
McPherson is the Irish playwright known to Philadelphia audiences from three recent and excellent productions: Shining City (Theatre Exile), The Weir (Curio Theatre), and The Seafarer (Arden Theatre); he has a thing for drunks and for Christmas Eve. In Dublin Carol, it's same time, same station. But this time all you can think is: Bah, humbug!
Jim Schlatter, as John, is using a conspicuously fake and hard-to-understand Irish accent. John's apprentice, Mark (Matt Mancuso), seems to serve no function other than to listen to John and to contribute a pointless story about trying to break up with his girlfriend. Mancuso has only two facial expressions: smirk and scowl, neither of which seems to suit the role's very limited needs.
When at last something happens - John's daughter turns up after 10 years' silence to tell him his long-estranged wife is dying - the story is left inconclusive and unresolved. Caitlin Antram as Mary provides some welcome relief in that she seems actually to inhabit her character and deliver lines as though she believes them (in other words, she can act).
All the tedious talk is made worse by the excruciating slowness of Mimi Kenney Smith's direction. There is much pointless action (take down the Christmas lights, put up the Christmas lights, put the kettle on, take the kettle off), and all dialogue waits in silence for each task to be finished.
Dublin Carol is the first of a pickup Irish Theatre Festival: Eight theater companies will be presenting eight plays from now through May. Coming up are Inis Nua company's Pumpgirl, by Abbie Spallen; Lantern's A Skull in Connemara, by Martin McDonagh; Dublin's Abbey Theatre staging Terminus, by Mark O'Rowe, at Annenberg; Theatre Exile providing another McDonagh, The Lieutenant of Inishmore; Act II giving us The Pride of Parnell Street by Sebastian Barry; Inis Nua continuing the festival with Dublin by Lamplight, by Michael West, and, for a mighty finale, yet a third McDonagh, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Druid Theatre's stunning production imported from Galway for a brief run at Annenberg. (Information on Irish Mix Tix is available at www.phillytheatretix.com.)
After such a dreary start, things are bound to improve.
Through Dec. 19. Amaryllis Theatre Company at the Playground at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St. Tickets $10. Information: 215-717-2173 or www.amaryllistheatre.org.