Thomasina in Tom Stoppard's mind bending time warping play, ARCADIA, observes that when you stir rasberry jam into vanilla pudding it will first swirl in streaks but ultimately will turn the entire pudding pink. If you stir the pudding in the opposite direction, the jam will not separate back out again.
--LIFE MOVES ONLY FORWARD--NEVER BACK!--
Thursday, February 06, 2020
Molly Sweeney by Brian Friel (A staged reading at the Rogue Theatre 2-2-2020
Sweeneyby Brian Friel (A staged reading at the Rogue Theatre 2-2-2020
With a big
name production of Brian Friel’sMolly
Sweeneyscheduled to be directed by
Robert Falls at the Goodman Theatre this spring,we were eager to attend a staged reading of
the play at Tucson’s Rogue Theatre a week ago. Friel, who has often been called the Irish
Chekhov, had a long and distinguished playwriting and literary career.We remember fondly seeing his Dancing at
Lughnasa some time ago.
Sweeneyis the story of a middle aged Irish woman,
blind almost from birth, who is given minimal sight in an operation by a
surgeon looking to rejuvenate his career. The original show features three
players doing related independent monologues without interacting. They are Molly,
of the title, Mr. Rice, the surgeon who does her eye operation, and Frank, a
man with a thousand failed causes, who marries Molly and tackles the task of
trying to re-educate her to the sighted world.
Griffith did make a few changes in the casting for this staged reading.She used a four actor cast and doubled Mr.
Rice, Molly’s father and others with actor Joseph McGrath. Actor Two, played by
Ryan Parker Knox tookon the over
zealous Frank and others. Actor Three, Carley
Elizabeth Preston, read Molly Sweeney. I
assume, in order to add another female voiceto the mix, Griffith chose her fourth actor, Bryn Booth, to read a
number of minor women’s voices. She also chose to add interaction and reaction between
the players during the reading. This added a nice theatrical dimension to the
now on the script, I can see that it lays
out a number of views of a significant shared event in the characters’ lives. The
result is a kind of “Rashomon” effect that shows the event from each individual’s
descends into a psychiatric rabbit hole after her operation, and for her the
central question becomes whether she is better off remaining in her dark but
familiar existence or adopting the new. The surgeon and the husband start out
with firm beliefs that restoring Molly’s sight is unquestionably the right and
moral path.They want to fix a deficit in
her that they see as a return to normality because they and most of the rest of
humanity have had a sighted existence all their lives.
husband, and do-gooder extraordinaire, whose enthusiasms run to importing
Iranian goats to make cheese on off shore Irish islands, has failed at all his
projects up to now and seems to take on Molly at the age of 40 as another of
his socio-moral commitments.Mr. Rice, the
surgeon, his life put into shambles by his wife running away with a colleague, has
retreated to an Irish backwater to lick his wounds. But, like most surgeons, he
believes that operating is the right and proper thing to do. If it restarts his
career along the way that is simply another good thing.
teacher faces similar issues on a somewhat smaller canvas. Many of us feel that
one of our responsibilities is to take students from darkness into light by
moving them to some degree or other out of their comfort zones.Is this an unselfish goal or are there
ulterior motives? Is it always best for
the student? In the play we see that for
Molly the darkness was the norm and when it was changed the results were not
positive.Changing her way of seeing broke
her world beyond repair instead of fixing it.As my wife observed, an obsession on one person’s part, even though
noble and moral, might not affect others in the same way. Given that
“Obsession” was this year’s Rogue Theatre theme, this reading certainly
supports the themes of some of their earlier productions-- especially the
adaptation of Moby Dick which we saw last month.
There were other
interesting observations made during the discussion period after the conclusion
of the reading. One man said that the story had a clear Icarus feeling. Getting
too close to the sun can create a heated brilliance that destroys and melts
commented on the feminist implications in the play since itdepicted how men (Dr. Rice, Frank, and
Molly’s father) continue to foist their sense of what is right and proper on a woman.
The critic, Michael
Billington, in a Guardian review of an earlier production, also reiterated a
general critical comment that most of Friel’s work centered on Irish attempts to
escape from darkness.
what does Molly have to lose?Maybe
everything, say some. Frank is less self
aware in the sense that he simply reacts by setting off to Ethiopia on another
probably hopeless adventure.Dr. Rice
seems to have a better perspective at the end by at least saying.“I’m sorry, Molly.”
conclusion this was a project well executed that also provided thought
provoking comment about the text from the audience.It is one good reason why the work that the Rogue
Theatre does is so satisfying.