Epic 'DruidMurphy' by Top Dramatist Explores Irish Emigres

DruidMurphy Famine
Catherine Ashmore
DruidMurphy Famine

Accents, the way words or dozens of them are said, can carry across the ocean in our times, and so can entire paragraphs, plays, speeches and stories. That’s what Rory Nolan does sort of talking about the Galway-based Druid Theatre Company and "DruidMurphy," a trilogy of plays by Tom Murphy, whom some folks call Ireland’s greatest playwright.

“I wouldn’t argue the point, that’s what he is, our greatest living playwright,” Nolan says. “I know he certainly ranks right up there with Brian Friel, and then there’s Enda Walsh and Martin McDonagh, but talking just for myself, there’s none better at getting at the real heart and soul of Irish people.”

This is the Druid Theatre Company’s second visit to Washington, and it starts out tonight at the Eisenhower Theater with Murphy’s “Conversations on a Homecoming" at 7:30 p.m., followed tomorrow with his scathing, ground-breaking debut, “A Whistle in the Dark,” followed on Friday, Oct. 19, with the epic “Famine,” which is about what many historians see as Ireland’s very own holocaust, the 1846 potato crop famine which resulted in thousands of deaths and a mass emigration of Irish people to the United States. The theme of exile and Irish emigration runs through the whole three-play cycle which will be performed consecutively on Saturday, Oct. 20, beginning with “Conversations on a Homecoming” at 1:01 p.m.

The Druid Theatre Company starts out tonight with Murphy’s “Conversations on a Homecoming" at 7:30 p.m., followed tomorrow with his scathing, ground breaking debut, “A Whistle in the Dark,” and ends Friday, Oct. 19, with the epic “Famine,” which is about what many historians see as Ireland’s very own holocaust, the 1846 potato crop famine which resulted in thousands of deaths and a mass emigration of Irish people to the United States.

Nolan, speaking from Dublin, has a rolling little lilt to his speech, instantly recognizable, like a song, but, like Murphy, a venerable cultural figure in Ireland, he has no truck for Irish clichés and sentimentality that is characteristic of the Irish in America, if not at home.

“Murphy is straight ahead,” Nolan, who has parts in all three plays says. “It’s the truth, reality of the characters, there’s not of that blarney. His characters are angry about their lot in life. They speak in unromantic terms. There’s an edge in everything they say.”

“The Gigli Concert,” a lengthy play that rode on a whirlwind of words, received a highly praised production at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre several years ago, and McDonagh has become a popular mainstream playwright in America, while the work of Walsh received productions of his work by the visiting Druid company at the Kennedy Center two years ago in addition to seeing productions of plays like “The New Electric Ballroom” at the Studio Theatre.

“This will be the first really substantive exposure of his work in the states,” Nolan says. “It’s powerful stuff, grand. Murphy likes to write about exile, departures, the effects of that, and when it happened on such a scale as the aftermath of the great famine. Well, that’s a subject that’s major and serious.”

Druid was founded in Galway in 1975 by Galway University graduates Garry Hynes (who is directing the three plays), Mick Lally and Marie Mullen.

“The Druid style is natural,” Nolan said. “It’s evocative and sharp. It’s a great opportunity for an actor to be working here. They take on challenging and new ways of doing things. It’s not just the big plays, the established playwrights. They do a great job with encouraging and working with new writers, and young actors, too.”

LAST CALL FOR MUST-SEES

THE FOURTH VELOCITYDC DANCE FESTIVAL

The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall is the place to be this weekend if you love dance. The fourth annual VelocityDC Dance Festival will be staged Oct. 18 through 21 with performances at 8 p.m, Oct. 18, 19 and 20; at 2 p.m. Oct. 20 and 21.

Dance-supportive institutions like the Washington Performing Arts Society, the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Dance/Metro DC haves organized this three-day festival which features world-class artists and dance companies presenting a gala format of movement and music, hip-hop and spoken word works.

Included is a Ramp!-to-Velocity series of events 90 minutes before curtain times. Among the performers and companies are the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, El Teatro de Danza Comtemporanca El Salvador, The Washington Ballet Studio Company, Farafina Kan, the Dissonance Dance Theater, the CityDance Conservatory, Step Afrika! and the Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble among many others.

'FLY' AT FORD’S THEATRE

There’s still a little time to see the ground-breaking “Fly,” a new play by Ricaredo Khan and Trey, which tells the saga of the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen, four World War II African-American military pioneers who proved themselves as officers and pilot-warriors. The play—inventively staged—combines live action, video footage and “Tap Griot.” The Ford’s Theatre season opener will be performed through October 21.

THEATER FOR FOODIES

The Round House Theater in Bethesda has opened “I Love to Eat” by James Still, a one-man tour-de-farce that features Nick Olcott as the culinary maestro James Beard, running through Nov. 4.

JOPLIN STILL REIGNS, AND SO DOES MOLLY IVINS

Texas women still rock and rock out at Arena Stage which has Kathleen Turner as the brave, rambunctious journalist Molly Ivins in “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins” through Oct. 28 and Mary Bridget Davies bringing down the house as the 1960s white blues blazing star Janis Joplin in “One Night With Janis Joplin” through Nov. 4.

THE DROODS ARE BACK

Artistic director Robert McNamara is dipping into the ultra violence of the Droogs made famous by Anthony Burgess’s novel and Stanley Kubrick’s movie of the same name with a stage production of “A Clockwork Orange” at the H Street Playhouse through Nov. 19.

THE LOCALS SHINE IN ‘THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR’

Veteran Washington super-talents are on stages in Michael Kahn’s production of Nicholas Gogol’s comedy, “The Government Inspector,” including Rich Foucheux, Nancy Robinette, Derek Smith, David Sbin, Sarah Marshall, Hugh Nees Craig Wallace and, of course, Floyd King. “The Government Inspector” continues through Oct. 28.

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Mon, 20 Oct 2014 00:26:24 -0400

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