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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review- Blood Guilty (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by Diánna Martin.

As the lights come up in Antoine O Flatharta's drama Blood Guilty, we are introduced to Pat (Vincent Dowling) and Dan (Christopher Joseph Jones), whose home life is the stuff reminiscent of the Collier Brothers and Grey Gardens. Time seems to have stopped in the cluttered house. Dan, who appears feeble-minded, but we later find is simply blind, constantly enjoys annoying his other elderly brother, Pat, by constantly switching the radio. The two older men bicker (well, Pat bickers and Dan simply listens as his bickering turns emotionally and psychologically abusive) about the radio and their life. I was actually fascinated by the relationship between the two actors...and felt such sympathy for Dan, who is at his brother's mercy, though we really don't believe that Pat will "send him to the nuthouse"...or do we?

The story begins to move forward a tad when Pat leaves the house on an errand and leaves his blind brother to enjoy the French station on the radio that he seems to be obsessed with; because it is now that he is alone that The Strangers come calling. Tom (Paul Nugent) and John (Aidan Redmond), his older brother, come by offering to sell blankets that they have no doubt stolen. They let themselves into the house, and once seeing that there is nobody but a mentally feeble, elderly blind man there, begin to threaten his life for money as they ransack the house. Much to their chagrin, there is nothing of value, which begins to enrage John, the elder of the two hooligans. Just as one thinks John might actually strangle Dan for fun, Pat walks in and assesses the situation.

And here is where the play ended for me. Let me start by saying that I was delighted to see beautiful work by the two older actors at the beginning of the play; their relationship was one that I bought and I felt for. It held a world of possibility for me; how did it get this way? Why was Pat such a bastard? Was Dan really so feeble or just sick of fighting? And in a theatrical world where the stage is often dominated by young actors, it was refreshing to see two seasoned older gentlemen have their day.

And bringing the two thieves/potential murderers in was an interesting ordeal, for you saw a similar dynamic between both sets of brothers - and I know that that is what the playwright and director Kevin Collins may have been going for; I know that that is what I walked away with.

However, after Pat was able to get a stab in to Tom and wound him, and John does nothing to overpower him, I just did not buy it. I didn't. There was no way, physically or psychologically (as the way John's character was set up) that he would not attack - and 98% be able to overpower Pat. One section is he strangling Dan; the next he is too hysterical to grab a small knife from a man who's obviously not his match in strength or power. Or the fact that he wouldn't just move his brother out of the house, carry him, and take him to get aid. I was completely thrown out of the play. If it came down to him not loving his brother enough and thinking of him as a burden (again, the link between the two sets of brothers), then he should have left him there and let us all go home.

What added salt to this theatrical wound...what truly ruined the play for me, was the lengthy soliloquies that Pat had as Tom was dying. As John stayed and did nothing, really, but listen to this older man rant about this and that - there were points made that would have been moving had there been some basis of reality to ground them on, since this play was established as a drama, not some stylized piece. The days of youth versus the plight of the old, of watching your dreams fade and how Pat came to where he was in life had no interest for me anymore because I no longer believed the play.

The only thing I believed...what kept me holding on...was the beautiful far away look in Dan's eye. Jones had a life going on in his character as he remained silent that was so much more intriguing for me than 98% of the show - I wanted to be where he was, in his mind. And unfortunately, we were not.

A valiant effort, but alas, potential wasted, on what could have been a good show.

The Bronx Company, Whole in the Wall & First Irish present
Blood Guilty
The Players Loft Theater

This show has now closed. For more information about the festival, visit

THe Players Loft Theater | 115 MacDougal Street, 3rd Floor | Manhattan.

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