- Last Days of the Killone Players
By Eric Lucas
Directed by Leslie A. Kobylinski
Produced by Keegan Theatre’s New Island Project
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
The stereotypical image of Ireland, arising in part from a wealth of literary and theatrical works, involves a poor agricultural nation rich in tradition and slow to change. In fact, Ireland has undergone a rapid period of booming economic growth and transformation over the last twenty years, a phenomenon known as the Celtic Tiger. Keegan Theatre’s New Island Project attempts to explore the impact of this phenomenon through the microcosm of a small amateur theatre company holding the first reading of its final production in The Last Days of the Killone Players.
Deep within this world premiere play is a fine play struggling to emerge, perhaps even two or three plays. Therein arises the problem with this work. While it features some fine writing, the overall structure is problematical due to multiple thematic and plot threads which are not fully developed.
The play begins with a comic monologue from Tom Hagen (Gerald B. Browning), family patriarch and driving force behind the theatre group, about the secrets to success in community theatre. We then learn the Killone Playhouse was burned down the night before when Tom is interview by Detective McDonagh (Bruce Alan Rauscher). We then meet other members of the extended theatrical family: Tom’s wife Winn (Kerri Rambow), an old bachelor friend of Winn’s named Sean Brohan (John Brennan), and an enthusiastic young actor name Denis (Jon Reynolds).
Despite some amusing comic dialogue and involving character scenes, the first act develops too slowly and the purpose of the play is not clear. Will it be a satire of theatre traditions and a sentimental look at relationships in a family of community players? Will it confront issues on the importance of art versus commerce since the Playhouse was due to be replaced as part of a new shopping mall development? Will it feature a mystery told from fragmented points of view in flashback? Finally, at the end of act one, we are teased with additional plotlines arising from the return of Tom’s son Michael (Kevin O’Reilly), who may have committed a similar arson years ago before fleeing to Australia.
In act two the play looks like it will evolve into an intense family drama, sort of an Irish Arthur Miller play, as the parents confront Michael about his actions, his past history, and his current situation. Later, though, the role of confronting Michael will shift to Detective McDonagh, a man undergoing some personal crises who takes over the role of defender of community and tradition. The family drama is later pushed aside, as is the role of the company players other than a funny monologue from Denis about a dangerous personal rehearsal activity. Similarly, the mystery of the playhouse arson is resolved in a relatively perfunctory and unsatisfying manner.
Despite the underdeveloped themes and the lack of dramatic focus, the play has many positive attributes. Eric Lucas is gifted at writing dialogue, both comic and serious. Indeed, a few of his character speeches sound positively poetic, worthy of use as audition pieces. His writing has a ring of authenticity and he handles the Irish dialect in a convincing manner. A more judicious use of solo monologues would, however, make the drama more involving.
Director Leslie A. Kobylinski also draws out some fine performances from a nice cast of players who all relate well to each other. Bruce Alan Rauscher shows layers of character development as Detective McDonagh, showing the complexity of a world-weary man in mid-life crisis without ever stooping to maudlin theatrics. Kerri Rambow gives her character a nice maternal aura while convincingly conveying the drama underlying her relationships with other characters. Jon Reynolds provides an energetic and entertaining performance as the aspiring thespian.
At one point in the play Detective McDonagh asks Michael the secret of his career success as a rising young businessman. “Focus” is Michael’s reply, prompting the Detective to respond that Michael must see things very clearly, then. With a little greater focus and dramatic clarity, The Last Days of the Killone Players may someday emerge as an important new work.
Running Time: 1:40 (with one intermission).
When: Until April 5, 2008. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM.
Where: Theatre on the Run, 3700 South Four Mile Run Dr., Arlington, VA.