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The Stage: Dancing at Lughnasa

It's 20 years since Brian Friel's play brought the Mundy sisters from Ballybeg to Broadway, where The New York Times' legendary Frank Rich described it as theatre "that is at one with the buried yearnings and grave disappointments that are the inescapable drama of every life", and concluded that it did "exactly what theatre was born to do".

Since then, Dancing at Lughnasa has become one of the best-loved plays on the amateur circuit, and was given the Hollywood treatment in a film dubiously starring Meryl Streep. With David Horan directing a new production for Second Age, and a strong cast including Charlie Bonner, Donna Dent and Susannah de Wrixon, this should be a good opportunity to see how well the play has withstood the tests of time and popularity. Second Age bring Lughnasa to Letterkenny's An GrianĂ¡n tonight, and then to the Helix in Dublin, from November 2 to 19. Thereafter it tours to Cork, Wexford and Limerick. See secondage.com

The Year of Magical Thinking

Cork actress Gerry McLoughlin and director Mary Curtin tackle a formidable challenge with Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, from Wednesday at Cork's Everyman Palace. Didion, one of America's foremost essayists, as well as a novelist and screenwriter, was known for her penetrating reportage. And then her husband died, suddenly, and she applied that reportage to herself, writing a visceral memoir that became a massive bestseller. Originally adapted for the stage for Vanessa Redgrave, it achieved similar success there. It's not easy going -- this is a frank portrait of one woman's encounter with mortality, loneliness, and the "magical thinking" that ensues, and, as a one-woman show, there is also a frank encounter between audience and actress. But it is a moving and ultimately inspiring piece. Visit everymanpalace.com

Witness for the Prosecution

Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time: her 80 detective novels have sold some four billion copies, just beaten by the Bible. Yet her success as a playwright would have made her famous even without the novels. The Mousetrap, her 1952 play, is still running on the West End -- with audiences nightly implored not to reveal whodunnit. Witness for the Prosecution, Christie's courtroom drama, adapted from one of her short stories, had to contend with a run of just 645 performances and two Tony awards. It tells of the trial of a young man for the murder of a wealthy elderly woman -- who happens to have left him her estate in her will. His wife testifies to his innocence, and it all comes down to a mystery witness for the prosecution ... All will be revealed at the Gaiety in Dublin from Monday to Saturday, with a Saturday matinee. See gaietytheatre.ie

Irish Independent