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Monday, September 14, 2009

Review- Tales from Rainwater Pond (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by Peyton Wise.

When Americans think of Ireland, amidst the clutter of misty green fields, vaguely Celtic druids and freedom fighters, one image seems eternal: an older man telling a wistful story in a lilting voice.  Tales From Rainwater Pond at 1st Irish is a radiant embodiment of that image.  1st Irish, a festival of Irish theatre currently playing twelve venues throughout the city, has a wide range of styles and theatre companies, based both in America and in Ireland.  Wexford Arts Center, the presenter ofTales From Rainwater Pond, feels like an Irish cross between BAM and a regional theatre, presenting outside productions as well as self-produced plays, along with a wide range of music, cabaret, visual arts and an elegant cafĂ©. 

Tales From Rainwater Pond is written and performed by Billy Roche, a playwright and novelist whose work often centers on his hometown of Wexford, a coastal community of just under 20,000.  Actually, what is presented at 1st Irish is Mr. Roche performing two short stories, “Maggie Angre” and “Haberdashery” from a book of short stories by the same name.  And what stories they are. 

Mr. Roche has the rare gift of richness of detail without superfluity of emotion.  His brief hints at the grief of a father or the burden of a long-burning love are stunning because we are given merely a suggestion and the foundation to fill in the rest.  While the stories are uniquely small-town Irish, the humor and loss they describe are universally human.  There is something that happens during this show that is quite larger than its individual pieces.

Although an actor of some experience, Mr. Roche has the slow delivery and wry amusement of a writer reading his own work.  At the beginning of the piece, there seems to be a firm fourth wall despite the direct address, although that breaks down by the end of the show.  While Mr. Roche occasionally enacts an action in the first story and portrays the narrator of the second story, there seems to be no reason why this should be a play as well as a book.  However, Mr. Roche and the production possess some ineffable magic of storytelling that makes the stories breathe in a way no reading could.  The simple act of one man telling an intricate story of lonely people he cared about became a community meditation.

Wexford Arts Center and 1st Irish 2009 present
Tales from Rainwater Pond
Sept 3-13, 2009
Irish Repertory Theatre

This show has now closed. For more information on 1st Irish, visit

Irish Repertory Theatre | 132 West 22nd St | Manhattan.

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