Produced by Solas Nua
Reviewed by Ronnie Ruff
Podcast with Kate Debelack by Joel Markowitz with Lorraine Treanor (follows the review)
Chris Davenport and Kate Debelack (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)
Irish playwright Enda Walsh, who was recently appointed Playwright in Residence for Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, is becoming very familiar to Washington audiences. His 2005 play The Small Things does not tell a clearly defined story in the same way as last year’s Misterman or the excellent, well reviewed Bedbound – it does though, shower us with brilliantly constructed and colorful language. Frequently edgy and often shocking scraps of human cruelty, genocide and individual loneliness are accessible beneath the multiple layers of Walsh’s styled vocabulary. Walsh is a master at making you laugh at his characters and later feel really creepy that you found some things funny at all.
In Walsh’s world, fractured bits of childhood memories become the puzzle pieces that define large parts of human existence. Picture if you will two individuals reaching the twilight years of their lives; visualize them in twin facing separate homes with only their own words and horrific memories to keep them company. This is a play of brilliant theatrical musings that entertains our senses and brings far more shivers than DC’s recent wintry nights. Walsh toys with how we look at the English language and what has been done to stifle human communication.
Popular director Kathleen Akerley takes the helm of The Small Things for a young theatre company that is riding high after a very successful first season and a recent glowing Washington Post article. The Small Things takes Solas Nua into familiar territory with a play by Walsh and the unknown with a respected director from outside the company. Akerley does not disappoint and her treatment for The Small Things is as delightful as is the play itself. The actors give first class performances — Chris Davenport’s character, Man, is delightfully quirky with an understated frailty and his delicate delivery of a complex role is dazzling. Ms. Debelack gives a gutsy, well conceived performance that shows a new degree of depth. Her character, Woman, struggles with her lonely, pained existence remembering things that many would choose to repress.
The set is a pleasing mix of white panels drenched in defused light, a comfy easy chair much like your father sat in, a tall wooden kitchen stool, a table holding small figurines, nothing that really stands out because that would detract from what really deserves your attention, the language. The Small Things is a production of considerable importance and thought provoking dialogue that is powerful yet fragile and, without doubt, brilliant. It will serve you well if edgy material that has profound meanings hidden beneath deposits of clever but classic wordplay are your theatre of choice. Solas Nua and Ms. Akerley succeed in staying true to the company’s mission of bringing fresh, contemporary Irish theatre to Washington area audiences. While this is not the most accessible of their productions, it may be their most adventurous and beautiful.
(Run-time: 70 minutes, no intermission) The Small Things plays through Feb. 25th at Flashpoint 916 G Street NW, Washington, DC. Showtimes: Thurs – Sat at 8pm (except Thurs, Feb 15 is at 8:30), and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets: $20. Reserve by calling 202 595-1915 or purchase online