| go to index of reviews | go to entry page | | go to other departments |


Paulanne Simmons

"Da" Is Friendly but not Fiery

Directed by Charlotte Moore
Irish Repertory Theatre
The DR2 Theatre
103 East 15th Street in Union Square)
Opened Jan. 22, 2015
Tues. at 7pm; Wed. at 3pm and 8pm; Thurs. at 7pm; Fri. at 8pm; Sat. at 3pm and 8pm; and Sun. at 3pm.
Tickets: $71 212-727-2737 or www.irishrep.org.
Closes March 8, 2015

American novelist Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, "You can’t go home again." Maybe Irish playwrights haven’t read Wolfe. Or maybe they can’t resist. They seem to be perpetually going home.

In Hugh Leonard’s "Da," now onstage at The Irish Repertory Theatre’s temporary residence, the DR2 Theatre, Charlie (Ciarán O”Reilly), a writer living in London, returns to his home in Dalkey, County Dublin in 1968 upon the death of his father, affectionately known as Da (Paul O’Brien). But in Leonard’s largely autobiographical play, the dead refuse to stay dead. And so Charlie ends up confronting not only his father but also his long-dead mother (Fiana Toibin).

To complicate matters, Charlie’s younger self (Adam Petherbridge) also haunts the place. And so the play becomes a complex series of flashbacks in which Charlie questions both his parents’ and his own actions.

There’s a lot of humor here. Charlie’s blundering father, played with great gusto by O’Brien), happily informs the dour Drumm (Sean Gormley), a prosperous civil servant who has come to Charlie’s home to offer him a job, that Ireland will be a better place when Hitler defeats the British. Perpetually clueless, Da, with his good-natured babble, also ruins Charlie’s chances with Mary (Nicola Murphy) just as the poor kid’s about to score.

Charlie’s mother is another story. She too doesn’t know when to keep quiet, but most often her words sting rather than merely embarrass. Still there’s a lot of love here, even if she sometimes comes off as self-pitying and self-indulgent.

Jean Keating, as Oliver, Charlie’s best friend growing up, is always a source of joy. A cloying prude with little sense of humor, Oliver is not so much funny as foolish.

But despite director Charlotte Moore’s obvious sympathy with her subject and the volatile chemistry between O’Reilly and O’Brien, the play’s inherent lack of conflict undermines the drama. Charlie, who was adopted by his parents, never suffered from physical or psychological deprivation. His parents may have had their faults, but they were never anything if not loving and supportive.

If at the end of "Da" Charlie becomes reconciled with his past, we never get the feeling that he has had to make a huge effort to forgive his doting parents. "Da" can be funny, sentimental even moving at times. But it seems more like an essay than a drama.


| home | reviews | cue-to-cue | discounts | welcome |
| museums | NYTW mail | recordings | coupons | publications | classified |