Love is lonely business in the literary-historical, one-person play Molly by George O’Brien. Molly Allgood grieves over her recently deceased fiancé, the Irish Revival playwright J.M. Synge. As his muse, Molly received some of Synge’s most inspired female rolls, but when faced with his early passing, she must read through the vague stage-directions of their relationship to bring to life the trusting but complicated character of their love.
Don’t let her fool you. Though dressed in black and wrapped in a mourner’s shawl, Molly Allgood is not easily stricken by grief, though quite adept at giving it. The Kirsten Dunst dead-ringer actress Danielle Davy plays Molly as a red haired pistol with a clipped brogue and strutting playfulness that delivers on the signature moxie that made Molly a star of Dublin’s turn-of-the-century theater. Looking back on her time with Synge, Molly commemorates their relationship’s shared fulfillments while also poking and tearing like a woman scorned at its unrealized consummations.
Synge referred to Molly as his changeling, or the offspring of a fairy, troll or elf that has been substituted for a human child. Smooth, Synge.
Whatever Synge’s pet-name lacked in tact, however, it made up for in truth. Molly, Catholic, young, working-actress, is a figure from beyond Synge’s insulated middle-class, Trinity educated world. Their clashes of background cause Synge to keep their love in the shadows whereas Molly would rather see it take center stage.
Though not illicit in nature, their relationship has the tone of an affair, and Molly wages a hard-fought battle for legitimacy. When recounting their unnecessarily secret rendezvouses and delayed engagement announcements, Molly lampoons Synge’s seriousness, his crippling manners and immaculate formality as impediments to their love’s full expression.
Closes September 21, 2014
Scena Theatre at
Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
1 hour, 30 minutes no intermission
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays
In addition, the Abbey Theater stage curtain acts as further partition for their romance with Synge’s role within the nationalistic movement sealing him in a rarified chamber of patriotism and literary prominence away from Molly. Molly would much rather be with Synge the man than Synge the playwright, and you can see her taking no small delight in telling all of those heady poets like W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory to go piss off and leave them alone.
Synge succumbs to Hodgkin’s disease at 38 before he and Molly marry. The setup of a one-person play lends itself well to the isolation of Molly’s situation. As a bride in black, Molly shares the stage with Synge’s absence, and O’Brien’s script does a neat trick of making Synge’s loss felt while also giving life to his memory. Molly’s consistent retrospection, however, gives the play a wistful stagnation, and it could do with a little more forward action. Synge’s death ages Molly, who was once considered too young for Synge at 20 years his junior, and her nostalgia, at times, seems more fitting for an old widower rather than a young lover.
Deprived of mourning Synge properly as his wife, Molly turns to the audience to get it all out. The eulogy that Molly delivers gives insight into the romantic complications occurring at the intersection of class, reputation and artistic ambition. But in spite of all these hurdles, here she makes a memorable and heartfelt audition for the role of her career, Mrs. Synge.
Molly by George O’Brien . Directed by Robert McNamara . Featuring Danielle Davy as Molly Allgood . Produced by Scena Theatre . Reviewed by Richard Barry.
Richard Barry . DCTheatreScene Love is lonely business in the literary-historical, one-person play Molly by George O’Brien.
Malcolm Barnes . CDN Danielle Davy delivers a riveting performance
Chris Klimek . City Paper It seems shortsighted or worse to dismiss Allgood’s story… as a mere footnote of literary history.
Missy Frederick . Washingtonian Meet Molly. She’s a hard woman to root for, and a hard woman to relate to, and the audience has to spend quite a bit of time with her …
Michael Poandl . DCMetroTheaterArts Scena has gone green, and I’m not talking about reusable grocery bags.