- Alone It Stands
- By John Breen
- Directed by Eric Lucas and Kerry Waters Lucas
- Produced by Keegan Theatre’s New Island Project
- Reviewed by Tim Treanor
To understand the impact of Munster’s 1978 triumph over the New Zealand All Black team, you must imagine that the New England Patriots, fresh from its 63-0 triumph in the 2008 Super Bowl, is performing a barnstorming tour and is tripped up by the Montgomery County All-Stars – a mix of industrial-league players and the best of Montgomery College’s intramural teams.
Comparing Munster’s triumph to the Miracle on Ice, in which America’s amateur hockey players beat the Soviet Union’s professionals for the 1980 Olympic Gold Medal, doesn’t cut it. The Munster victory was more like finding out that the guy who reads your meter just sacked Tom Brady four times and forced a fumble.
That Ireland, a tiny country with an outsize literary tradition, would eventually turn this epic victory into, well, an epic was a given. The task, self-appointed, fell to John Breen, and Alone It Stands is the happy result. In the egalitarian tradition of modern Irish theater, Breen examines the victory from every conceivable standpoint: the President (Eric Lucas) of one of the local rugby clubs supplying players to the game, who also happens to be a gas station pump jockey; a rabid fan (Gerald B. Browning) whose wife (Mandy Moore) has had the bad judgment to be due to give birth right around the time of the great game; his friend (Joe Baker), who has been made morose by the whole nation’s history of dramatic losses and thus horribly pessimistic about the game; the fierce All-Blacks (the name came from a corruption of “all-backs“, which is how one London paper characterized their style of play) and their enormous, punishing fullback Stu Wilson (Eric Humphries); the Munster All-Stars, including their do-everything star Tony Ward (Brandon Cater); a gaggle of children, intent on creating a bonfire with a set of old tires liberated from the local dump; a similar gaggle of old men, standing at the bar and listening to the game on the radio; and even the rugby ball itself (Moore), flying high over the field of play.
Rugby is a brutal game – basically, football without helmets, pads or the forward pass. In union rugby, the kind played here, fifteen men bang at each other until one team loses possession of the ball and the other team recovers, and then they bang at each other some more. I am pleased to report that Keegan does not actually play rugby in the tiny Theatre on the Run space, and that accordingly the audience is safe during the show’s hundred-minute run. Instead, the six actors inhabit a municipality of characters – the program says 62- in a highly stylized manner, crisply and distinctly.
Still -62 characters! While it is unnecessary for the audience to know much about rugby, or even sport (other than that it is the only thing of value in this world), a high degree of alertness is absolutely essential. The actors change from Munstermen into All-Blacks in the twinkling of an eye (a uniform change between the first and second Acts is meaningless); and in the same seamless motion Moore transforms from a highly pregnant woman into the Munstermen’s valiant Moss Keane and Humphries transforms from All-Blacks superstar Wilson into a large dog with an upset stomach. The Munster wife revenges herself in an absolutely hilarious way on her husband for being at the game while she gives birth, but you have to be alert at the very beginning of the play to get the joke.
This is a clever story, well told, but it ain’t the Aeneid. The final score (12-0) is a matter of historical record, and except for the story of the game-night birth none of the side narratives are told in enough detail to be fully satisfying. On the other hand, the production is lively, the performances – particularly Cater’s and Humphries’ – are excellent, and the play leaves us with the hope that somehow, sometime, the New England Patriots might somewhere lose a football game.
- Running Time: 1:40 minutes, including one intermission.
- Where: Theatre on the Run, 3700 Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington, VA.
- When: Thursdays through Sundays until December 15. Sundays are at 3 p.m.; all other shows are at 8. No shows Thursday, November 22 or Thursday, November 29; there will be an additional show at 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 15.
- Tickets: $20; $15 for seniors and students.
- Info: 703.892.0202 or e-mail [email protected].