Monday 19 March 2018

Nostalgic monologue strains credibility

Brian Lavery


Few memories are as vibrant as those of places you knew as a child. Shadows, sounds and smells and textures are etched so deeply into our consciousness that they're never more than a thought away.

For Eamon Morrissey, the common memory of a place, even a generation apart, connects people like a shared inheritance.

Morrissey grew up in the same house in Ranelagh as the writer Maeve Brennan.

Their fathers were Civil War comrades; the Morrisseys moved in when Eamon de Valera sent the Brennans to Washington in 1934.

As Dublin theatre-goers know from 'The Talk of the Town' in last year's festival, Brennan came to fame for her short stories in the 'New Yorker' in the 1960s and 1970s, before succumbing to alcoholism and mental illness.

In this telling, Morrissey discovered their connection while reading one of Brennan's stories on a subway in 1966 when he was in New York acting in a Broadway production of 'Philadelphia, Here I Come!'.


Lightbulbs went off with mentions of a specific step that creaked and patterns of shadows in the garden. He writes to her; they meet for tea; she buys him a collection of Russian short stories. It's a charming story.

It's delivered on a bare set designed by Niamh Lunny with just a wooden subway station bench, and a clever backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, in illuminated silhouette made from strings of words. Unfortunately, Morrissey wraps the tale in tritely generic New York observations.

Young Eamon walks wide-eyed through Manhattan, "an island of unimaginable pleasures where forbidden fruit is within reach".

His recounting of Brennan's story also strains credibility. Was her decline really "heartbreaking to watch", when it happened decades after the one time they met?

Directed by Gerry Stembridge, this 90-minute monologue doesn't build much dramatic energy .

Its best passages belong to Brennan herself, since Morrissey tastefully includes long and powerful sections from her stories.

So rather than a traditional play, the show is an opportunity to hear a devoted actor pay homage to a fine writer, wrapped in childhood nostalgia.

Irish Independent

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment