Mojo Mickybo by Owen McCafferty
Produced by the new island project of Keegan Theatre at Theatre on the Run
Reviewed by Tim Treanor
Podcast with the cast and director follows the review.
Who are those guys?
Hey, if you like good theater, delivered explosively by excellent actors, do yourself a favor and go to the Theatre on the Run in Arlington. Buy yourself a ticket to Owen McCafferty’s Mojo Mickybo, plunk yourself down in one of the comfortable seats, and just watch.
Mojo Mickybo, set in 1970 Belfast, is the story of the friendship between two boys, the diffident Mojo (Christopher Dinolfo) and querulous, aggrieved Mickybo (Michael Innocenti). The lads are just at the cusp of pubescence, where they glory in the ecstatic violation of parental authority and of minor ordinances. They steal cigarettes, piss on walls and shout out profanity with the purposefulness of monks singing a hymn. They are full of grand plans, but they are still kids. When Mickybo’s stewbum father (Dinolfo again) offers to take the kids to Australia, Mojo enthusiastically signs on – as soon as he gets his mother’s permission. ( “Just be back in time for tea,” his distracted ma (Innocenti again) says.}
Like kids of this age all over the globe, they live in a world which is half fantasy and half real. The fantasy part is informed by the great William Goldman movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Mojo and Mickybo imagine themselves to be the immortal cowboys, hard-riding gun-toting friends to the end. (“All men are cowboys,” a Greek chorus of neighborhood women, all played by Innocenti, tells Mojo, and they carry that truth with them throughout the play.) They talk a friendly local bus driver (Dinolfo) into giving them a ride to the next county, which will serve for Bolivia in the absence of the real thing.
The real part of their experience is informed in part by their childhood nemeses, Cank the Wank (Dinolfo) and Fuckface (Innocenti), who are a few years older than Mojo and Mickybo and thus as terrifying as lions. (Indeed, Fuckface’s older brother Torture is even more terrifying. “He says ‘fuck off’ to his mum,” Mojo says wonderingly to Mickybo, describing a crime in Catholic Belfast as exotic as cannibalism).
But the real part is also informed by Belfast, which is to say is informed by Hell. A miasma of violent death hangs over the play’s landscape, and the adults know that the question is not whether it will come but when it will come, and to whom. Mojo’s quietly confident da (Innocenti) knows all about it, because he’s a part of it. “I’m going dancing,” he informs Mojo one night; we know, though the boy doesn’t, that in Belfast the only dance is the dance with the devil. But so does Mojo’s ma (Innocenti), who is made a knot of anxiety by it; and Mickybo’s wisecracking, tale-telling ma (Dinolfo), and his hard-drinking da.
When the moment comes, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are collateral damage. “The age of human happiness is over,” Adolf Hitler once said. “Now let us get on with our work.” And so it is here. Childhood confronts the heartbreaking real world. Childhood loses, and our hearts are broken.
As you have doubtlessly realized by now, Dinolfo and Innocenti populate a municipality of characters, and I must tell you that they do it with such speed, skill and authenticity that ten minutes into the play the addition of another actor is unthinkable. Innocenti establishes such specifically realized characters (particularly his women) with such a minimum of fuss and bother that he recalls a younger version of Jefferson Mays, the Tony-Award winning star of I Am My Own Wife. While Dinolfo’s characters do not show as much range as Innocenti’s, he establishes an exceptionally strong narrative voice not only as Mojo but as Mickybo’s parents and the busman as well.
This is rapid, slam-bang stuff, and Eric Lucas has obviously worked his actors hard, as a good director must. The playful, minimalist set, which Lucas designed with his wife, Kerry, provides the additional benefit of allowing Dinolfo and Innocenti to race around the stage without interference from set pieces.
Great pain creates great art, and Belfast has provided fertile ground which both Keegan and Solas Nua are exploring with great vigor and effect. Mojo Mickybo is an opportunity to see a play not once but many times – initially, at Theatre on the Run, and thereafter, at every quiet moment you reflect upon what Mark Twain called, accurately, “the damned human race.”
Mojo Mickybo (Runtime: 70 minutes) plays Wednesdays through Saturdays until February 2 at 8 pm and on Saturday, February 3, at 2 p.m. at Theatre on the Run. And on Tuesday, Jan 9 at 8 pm. Tickets are $20 and may be obtained at 703.892.0202 or at www.keegantheatre.com
Listen in as director Eric Lucas, actors Christopher Dinolfo and Michael Innocenti discuss the Keegan tour of Ireland, the extreme head games of playing Mojo, Mickybo, their parents and assorted Belfast characters. At the end, Christopher and Michael perform part of the opening scene. Interviewed by Lorraine Treanor