In Irish Authors Held Hostage, Irish writers from throughout history have been kidnapped by terrorists and the outcome is invariably bad for the terrorists but great for the audiences viewing this clever work of inspired silliness.
Irish Authors Held Hostage involves eleven variations on the idea of terrorists taking authors hostage. The terrorist get more than they bargained for from authors who are capable of their own intellectual sympathizing and terrorizing. Author/cast member John Morogiello created an ideal work for a Fringe festival given its absurd premise, the twisted cerebral basis of much of the humor, and the quick-cutting comedic pacing.
An exemplary skit involves Oscar Wilde and Arab terrorists. After initially refusing to sit and be bound in an ugly chair, Wilde (Morogiello in a laughable wig) finally states “I don’t care what you do to me as long as it’s beautiful.” Wilde later is intrigued by a terrorist’s description of a post-martyrdom kiss from the Prophet and comfort from 72 virgins and flirts with him, creating confusion over the man’s sexual identity.
Irish Authors Held Hostage was last seen locally in a successful run during the 2006 Capital Fringe Festival. The original ensemble cast is back (Terrence Aselford, Lori Boyd, and Terence Heffernan join Morogiello) along with one new skit. Gone is the variation involving Sean Casey and a North Korean terrorist, replaced by a hilarious new scene when Frank and Malachy McCourt play “who had the worse childhood” with a Somali pirate (whose stories usually end with a local warload using his machete).
Given the experience of the cast, it’s no surprise that the ensemble moves quickly and confidently through the variations. All of the performers are skilled, although Terrence Heffernan’s Arab terrorist Achmed is especially memorable. Director Martin Blanco helps the cast keep the energy high and the caricatures lively.
At its best the humor rises to Monty Pythonesque heights. A few of the sketches are uneven, but the one-liners come so fast and furious that the fun never lags. Morogiello puts just enough information in the skits so an understanding of Irish literature is not necessary, but come early anyway to read the program’s funny background information. An added treat both pre-show and between scenes is live Irish music from a three person ensemble led by Music Director Tina Eck.
As a note to Fringe-goers, Morogiello is also the author of another work playing at this year’s festival, the revenge-comedy Jack the Ticket Ripper presented by The Georgetown Theatre Company. Given the success of Irish Authors Held Hostage, you might want to explore more fun from the playwright’s pen.
My only complaint about the performance is the fact that the musicians get to enjoy their Guinness in plain sight of the audience. As my old elementary school teacher said, “If you don’t being enough for the whole class to share …”