Monday, May 27, 2013

Theater Review: A Couple of Blaguards -- Long Wharf

Howard Platt amd Jarlath Conroy. Photo courtesy of Long Wharf.

A Bit of Blarney Seasons This Savory Irish Stew
By Lauren Yarger
Two brothers reminisce about growing up as A Couple of Blaguards in Limerick, Ireland in a mix of humor and moving vignettes written by real-life siblings Frank McCourt (“Angela’s Ashes”) and Malachy McCourt (“A Monk Swimming”).

Bringing the brothers to life at Long Wharf Theatre are Howard Platt (who also directs) as Malachy and Jarlath Conroy as Frank. The two share memories, burst into song and evoke laughter as they recreate moments from their shared childhood.

The cast of characters include their rather scary grandmother, a fire-and-brimstone-preaching priest, an intimidating insurance collector and others, created by the quick donning of a shawl, a collar or a cap. Their story moves from Ireland to their experiences as immigrants in America for the second act (a 90-minute, no-intermission format probably would serve better than the two hours broken by intermission).

McCourt thickens his stew with some moving, sadder memories that bring out the flavor: there is a poignant retelling, for example, of the death of their brother and of how Frank and Malachy “play” having a wake for him. The pathos and comments on trivial everyday matters combine to take us on a pleasant stroll down an emerald-colored memory lane.

The show predates either of the McCourt brothers’ most famous works, “Angela’s Ashes” and “A Monk Swimming.” The brothers first performed it in the 1970s for family and friends. 

“Malachy stood behind the bar and told his customers stories. I stood before the blackboard and told my students stories. At holiday gatherings we told our families stories. They said, ‘Why not get together, cobble these stories into a script and tell the world,’” Frank said.

A Couple of Blaguards runs through June 2 at Long Wharf theatre, Stage II, 222 Sargent Drive, new Haven. Performances: Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets $40 (203)-787-4282; www.longwharf.org.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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