STAGE FEATURE on Charles Duncombe's The Trojan Women and Julie Hebert's Tree
Photo by Pavel Antonov

Modern Irish theater is filled with three things: people holding other people hostage, people making up crap, and playwrights holding the art of making up crap as a holy rite and source of national identity. You can find it from Brendan Behan to Brian Friel, from Conor McPherson and now to Enda Walsh. Druid Ireland's rendition of Walsh's The Walworth Farce  was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival, and it's since been to London, Brooklyn and Chicago. Call it Enda Walsh's Flying Circus, handily directed by Mikel Murfi. It opens on a wreck of a London walkup, subdivided into three partitions (Sabine Dargent designed the set and costumes) in which we find a crusty yet boundlessly energetic and brutal father named Dinny (Michael Glenn Murphy) acting in and directing the one play he ever wrote, a kind of family biography, with his two adult sons, Sean (Tadhg Murphy, with bald pate) and Blake (Raymond Scannell), who dons a dress and plays all the women's parts. When there simply aren't enough actors to play the coterie of women who fill out Dinny's slapdash opus, a wig on a broomstick suffices. Some scenes last about five seconds, after which the wig gets thrown in the air and lands back on Blake's head, as he flies from portraying one aunt to the next. Should mention the two cardboard coffins, and references to the mother whose head was crushed by a flying, dead horse;  and the dog impaled on a tent pole, who burst into flames.

All of this is fever-dream of Dinny's bloated imagination in an attempt

to re-write the family history of what happened in Cork, persuade his

sons that his version is credible, and explain why the trio are now

refugees in England. They play out this ramshackle epic, day after day,

for the sake of an acting trophy that stands perched on one of the

wooden crossbeams. Poor Sean, however, keeps screwing up, which is a

source of his dad's fury. Today, he bought a wrong prop from Tesco. An

ingenuous Tesco cashier, Hayley (Mercy Ojelade), wanders in and rings

the bell of the highly barricaded asylum, after having scaled over a

dozen flights of stairs. She knows that Sean picked up the wrong

shopping bag by accident (vindicating Sean from Dinny's charge of

lying, a charge that constitutes the embrace of absurdity and

hypocrisy.) With the company's mantra of customer service in her brain,

and perhaps some romantic attraction to the blithering dolt, Hayley

tries to make things right. Here, the outside world crashes into the

deranged one that's become the three men's lives, and things get very

interesting. The staging and the acting is just a frenzy of brilliance,

though it's sometimes hard to follow the contortions of Dinny's

play-within-the-play.  At first, I thought, oh here's UCLA Live being

experimental. That idea alone is a farce. These are the oldest tricks

in the world.  UCLA Live, at the Ralph Freud Playhouse, Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Nov. 15.  A Druid

Ireland production (Steven Leigh Morris)

Check back here Monday afternoon for review of:  Noises Off, Michael Frayn's backstage farce at A Noise Within, in Glendale; Mary Poppins at the Ahmanson; Naomi Grossman's solo show about sex and identity, Carnival Knowledge, at the Lex in Hollywood; Anthony Aguilar's El Verde Origins, at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica; Robey Theatre Company's production of Joseph A. Walker's The River Niger at LATC downtown; Terry Gomez's Carbon Black at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park; Kenneth Lin's Po Boy Tango at East West Players in Little Tokyo; Baby It's You, at the Pasadena Playhouse; Jacob Smith's Landscaping the Den of Saints presented by Theatre Unleashed at the Avery Shreiber Theatre in North Hollywood; Rebecca Gilman's The Glory of Living, co-produced by Athena Theatre and El Centro Theater at the latter's Hollywood space.


Michael Sakamoto's full-length stage work is presented by the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures at the Glorya Kaufman Dance Theater, 120 Westwood Plaza at UCLA November 20-21, 8 p.m. (310) 825-2010. More information here


Luis Avalos' new play with songs (music by Beto Hale), presented by The Americas Theatre Arts Foundation at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 15. (213) 489-0994, Ext. 107 or here


Reading of Alex Maggios play about a young female filmmaker who discovers mystical secrets through shooting a movie about events in Oakhurst, Ohio. November 19, 7 p.m. at Cafe Metropol 923 East Third Street (213) 613-1537. Presented by Yale Cabaret.


Alice Johnson's performs her one- woan comedy at the Pasadeana Playhouse, Carrie Hamilton Theatre, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Saturady, Nov. 14, 8 p.m. (323) 993-7148


Winston Steale, chihahua “could make Richard Lewis smile, Patricia Clarkson shriek with delight, and Kevin Spacey request an introduction.” Winston, along with Leila Arias, Ann Radolph, Betsy Salkind, and others host Melanie Chartoff for an evening of comedy, food, music and stories as a fundraiser for medical expenses incurred by Beyond Baroque's Artist-in-Residence, Terrie Silverman, after a dog attack. Beyond Baroque, 631 Venice Blvd., Venice 90291. Tickets here

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