Not as well known or as often produced as Conor McPherson’s later works The Weir, Port Authority or Shining City, this superb production of This Lime Tree Bower is every bit as worthy, in the custody of Quotidian Theatre Company, which has become the best stage to experience McPherson’s plays in the Washington, D.C. area.
This Lime Tree Bower is an early foray into the multi-character serial monologue form of which the playwright has become known. A master storyteller, McPherson’s script for This Lime Tree Bower contains the trademark intelligence, wry humor, virtuosity for suspense and compassion for morally compromised flesh and blood characters for which he’s become celebrated.
The solid cast skillfully unspools the play’s three interweaving monologues, painting a comically unsettling week in the lives of three men from the coastal suburbs of Dublin. As with McPherson’s best work, the distinct narratives meander, touching on this, alighting on that, all the while building in emotional complexity. The three men’s voices are literary and distinct, endowed with illustrative gusto and loaded with details.
Director Jack Sbarbori has advantageously provided his actors room to roam as they air their carols. Instead of passively sitting in front of a black curtain in limbo space or around a table, as done in other productions, the actors move around a well-adorned fish and chips shop.
Teenaged Joe (Chris Stinson), seems out of place in the rough working-class community. Thoughtful and sensitive, he recounts his fascination with a dangerous classmate, one of the cool kids who offers Joe tantalizing escape from an unsatisfying life following the rules of school and home. Joe’s older brother Frank (David Mavricos) manages the local chipper with their father, a broken man after his wife’s recent death and plagued with money troubles. Tired of seeing his da harangued by the local bookie, Frank confesses to carrying out a crime to repay the family debts and set things right. The misanthropic philosophy professor Ray (Michael Avolio) rounds out the storytelling trio. Ray dates Frank and Joe’s sister when he’s not contemptibly bedding his students or terrorizing his colleagues in attempts to elevate his professional standing.
THIS LIME TREE BOWER
July 10 – August 9
Quotidian Theatre Company
at the Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission
Tickets or call 1-800-838-3006 Ext.1
The drama’s tension increases as each speaker picks up their part of the story through about three alternating rounds.
The cast is excellent. Stinson, last seen at Quotidian (2013’s standout The Iceman Cometh) delivers another nuanced, vulnerable performance. The most likable character, he remarkably expresses the insecurities and desires of a teenaged boy. Befittingly costumed in an Irish school lad’s uniform, his agonized account of trying to fit in and be noticed provides much of the show’s humor.
I suspect that monsters are the most fun to inhabit on stage and Avolio’s engrossing turn as the play’s audacious, alcoholic reprobate is bathed in droll self-awareness.
Finally, in the least showy role, David Mavricos suppresses Frank’s anger and sense of righteousness in a quiet, compelling performance. His account of the crime on which the play’s plot revolves is two parts thrilling, one part burlesque, the way crimes tend to come off in real life.
McPherson’s signature style is a complementary fit at the theater that so ably demonstrates an appreciation for language and Quotidian has now staged eight of his plays. This Lime Tree Bower is an early gem from the man who’s made a career from perfecting stories well told.
This Lime Tree Bower by Conor McPherson . Directed by Jack Sbarbori . Featuring David Mavricos, Michael Avolio and Chris Stinson . Set Design/Props/Sound Design: Jack Sbarbori . Lighting Design: Don Slater . Produced by Quotidian Theatre Company . Reviewed by Roy Maurer.