There Are Little Kingdoms is a collection of stories all taking place in County Cork, Ireland on a single day. While some are mildly interesting and artfully rendered, overall the work is disconnected and lacks dramatic impact.
Kevin Barry is a skilled writer whose short story collection “There Are Little Kingdoms” won the 2007 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. He took about half of those short stories and turned them into a play which The Keegan Theatre is producing as part of its New Island Project (new Irish works with minimal staging).
Kryztov Lindquist, who serves both as a character named Foley and an omniscient narrator (think of the Stage Manager in Thornton’s Wilder’s Our Town), attempts to fill in the gaps. He describes the setting and introduces the numerous denizens of the community (7 actors play 27 characters), using poetic language that contrasts with the dark lives of the story’s working class inhabitants. During most scenes he usually crumples up on the side of the stage like an unused marionette.
Many of the stories themselves are little more than dark character sketches, punctuated with Irish humor. The characters often resort to drinking, exaggerated story telling, and sexual adventures to distract themselves from desperate lives and economic hardship. There is only one seemingly happy character, a carefree young pool-playing buck named Jamesie (Drew Kopas), so we can expect a sad turn in his life.
At times, we see glimpses of the characters’ humanity, thanks to the talented cast. Eric Lucas brings a natural dramatic weight to his roles, and two naughty mean girls played by Suzanne Watts and Megan Thrift add welcome energy to the story. Yet the tales never coalesce into a meaningful whole and the poetry and drama of the short stories does not translate well to the stage. A tragic scene has little impact and the play ends abruptly.
It is easy to see why someone reading the script might choose the play based on fragments of beautiful descriptive language. Yet staged drama is a different world with its own demands. Nothing that co-directors Kerry Waters Lucas and Eric Lucas can do is capable of making this play more than the sum of its parts.
To quote a Kevin Barry interview in The Short Review, he took some stories from his collection and “scrunched them into a gooey stinky mess and – tah-dah! – turned them into a stage play”. Unfortunately, the drama is still a bit of a mess.
There Are Little Kingdoms
By Kevin Berry
Directed by Kerry Waters Lucas and Eric Lucas
Produced by The Keegan Theatre
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
There Are Little Kingdoms runs thru July 7, 2010.
Details, Directions and Tickets are here.
THERE ARE LITTLE KINGDOMS
Barbara MacKay . DCExaminer