Made in China
By Mark O’Rowe
Directed by Colin Hovde
Produced by Solas Nua
Reviewed by Ronnie Ruff
When it comes to cutting edge Irish theatre, it does not get much better than Solas Nua. Their 2005 production of Mark O’Rowe’s Howie The Rookie was a fabulous production that had humor, violence and rollercoaster like excitement – Irish story telling at its best.
This year’s theatre season brings us a new O’Rowe penned production by Solas Nua called Made In China. The biting humor and lightning wit is absent to a large degree; sure, the same crushing violence and some fairly funny lines are present but for the most part Made In China does not deliver the Quentin Tarantino like excitement of its predecessor.
The play is an adult, moving story that reveals just a bit of the lives of three young thugs who are soldiers in a local Dublin gang. After his mother’s death, Hughie (Danny Gavigan) decides to break his ties with the gang and withdraw from a life of crime. His buddy Paddy (Dan Brick) faces different problems-Paddy is an insecure young man who wants to be a gang member at any cost. He is encouraged by Kilby (Joel Rueben Ganz), who is a ‘tuff’ customer on the outside and a troubled young man on the inside.
When you break it down to its most basic themes, Made In China is not a very complex play. Prosthetics used as weapons and violent male rape verbiage are only part of the scary stuff that seems to be at every turn. The truth that O’Rowe wants us to accept is that you might just get what you wish for so be very careful.
The show is not without some highlights. Dan Brick is simply endearing as Paddy, the gangster wannabe who thinks he wants to be a part of something, anything no matter how gruesome it may be. Brick in fact has become so adept at portraying Irish hooligans that his performance is head and shoulders above his stage mates Gavigan and Ganz.
Colin Hovde directs and is responsible for a very interesting set design. Hovde built a small apartment room inside the Atlas Theatre’s black box lab. Almost akin to a light box, the set is viewed on all four sides through glassless windows. The thick Irish accents seemed to become muffled by the design making it even harder than usual to become acclimated to O’Rowe;’s gritty but strangely poetic prose. During the martial arts fight scenes the sound effects seemed muffled as well. Does the design work? I think the answer is it partially does – the set is certainly intimate but seems to restrict our access to the play. I felt like an outsider looking in instead of being part of the show. Maybe that was planned, a statement on violence and the way we look at the underbelly of society.
Made In China succeeds on some levels. The show is a gruesome but I am told accurate view of the world of Dublin gangs. There is some excellent acting by Dan Brick, a unique set, even if it does not work on all levels, and some pretty great language even if it is pretty brutal. Made In China is for Solas Nua fans – Not many new converts on this one folks.
Where: Atlas Center for the Performing Arts, 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC
When: thru Nov 4th. Thur thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm
Tickets: $20. Call 800 494-TIXS or click here.
Info: Solas Nua website.