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Review: In ‘Aristocrats,’ an Irish Dynasty Confronts Reality

Review: In ‘Aristocrats,’ an Irish Dynasty Confronts Reality


On a summer season garden outdoors Ballybeg Hall, the O’Donnell siblings loll below lemony daylight excellent for a household reunion. A marriage has lured again two of the émigrés amongst them, however Claire, the bride-to-be, has at all times lived at residence.

Her meant is an area man, many years older, whom she doesn’t love. A widower with younger kids he needs her to lift, he has promised her a automotive for Christmas, and days stuffed with nothing to do. None of which matches the desires she as soon as had of channeling her musical expertise right into a performing profession.

“He’s shopping for a piano in order that I can train the youngsters to play,” Claire says, the flatness of her voice the barest camouflage for her anguish. “Maybe one in all them will turn into a live performance pianist?”

This is what the wan remnants of an Irish Catholic dynasty appear like in Brian Friel’s play “Aristocrats,” set within the mid-Seventies amid the tumbledown glamour of the O’Donnells’ grand previous homestead, within the hills above Ballybeg, County Donegal.

Charlotte Moore’s revival at Irish Repertory Theater, the place she is the creative director, is thwarted by a casting misstep; extra on that shortly. Even so, this exquisitely realizing, distinctly Chekhovian play about lies and illusions handed down as historical past nonetheless has the facility to seize us.

This technology of O’Donnells and those that got here earlier than it have habitually appeared down on Ballybeg and its individuals. But the household’s cash has lengthy since run out, and these grown siblings weren’t raised to fend for themselves.

In a sickbed upstairs, their father (Colin Lane) lies moaning and ranting, his as soon as sharp authorized thoughts ravaged by a stroke. Over a child monitor within the research, we hear him muttering at Judith (Danielle Ryan), his exhausted daughter and fixed caretaker, whom he now not acknowledges.

“Let me inform you one thing in confidence,” he says, poisonously. “Judith betrayed the household.”

“Did she?” Judith says mildly, as if it had been nothing to listen to this accusation — an allusion, maybe, to her preventing the police early within the Troubles, or to the kid she bore out of wedlock, then positioned in an orphanage. Maybe each.

The O’Donnells don’t ordinarily deal in truths, preferring the romance of their very own much-embroidered mythology. It speaks of a wonderful previous and utters not a whisper about issues like suicide, psychological sickness and conditional love. Let alone whomever Casimir (Tom Holcomb) — sole brother to Judith, Claire (Meg Hennessy) and Alice (Sarah Street), a lonely alcoholic Londoner — is actually making a life with in Germany. An inveterate fabulist who stays petrified of his father, Casimir appears to have invented the spouse and three kids whom the household has by no means met.

This manufacturing, which is a part of Irish Rep’s season-long Friel Project, by no means does cohere, regardless of loads of persuasive appearing, together with by Tim Ruddy as Alice’s husband and Shane McNaughton because the working-class native who dotes on Judith. Charlie Corcoran’s set and Michael Gottlieb’s lighting are beautiful.

Yet in a play that’s a lot about tradition and place, our suspension of disbelief is shattered repeatedly by the garrulous Casimir sounding like he’s straight out of the American Midwest, his Irish accent disappearing for practically the whole efficiency I noticed.

As the O’Donnells properly know, make-believe requires collusion. But there are some pretenses we can not will ourselves to purchase.

Aristocrats
Through March 3 at Irish Repertory Theater, Manhattan; irishrep.org. Running time: 2 hours quarter-hour.

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