Susan Granger’s review of “Quietly” (Irish Repertory Theatre: August, 2016)
Imported directly from the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Owen McCafferty’s sectarian drama is perfectly suited to the newly renovated Irish Repertory Theater, located off-Broadway at 132 West 22nd Street.
Set in 2009 in a Belfast pub, it begins as Robert (Robert Zawadzki), a Polish immigrant, is tending bar. 52 year-old Jimmy (Patrick O’Kane) walks in, orders a pint and starts to watch a World Cup soccer match between Northern Ireland and Poland on TV.
They’ve been chatting amiably for about 20 minutes when another middle-aged man, Ian (Declan Conlan), walks in – and Jimmy, filled with fury, head-butts him.
Their backstories reveal how – on July 3, 1974 – when they were both 16 years old – their animosity began as Ian hurled a bomb into this same pub, killing six men suspected of being IRA sympathizers, including Jimmy’s father.
It was a savage time when unionist Protestants (“The Orange Bastards”) were battling nationalist Roman Catholics (“Fenian Bastards”).
“I can’t speak for the actions of a 16 year-old child,” Ian says, but he obviously harbors guilt, “not being able to look myself in the eye when I’m havin’ a shave.”
But apologies are of no use to grief-stricken Jimmy.
“Don’t ever come back here,” Jimmy tells Ian, when he eventually shakes his hand.
While its authenticity is never questionable, the terse dialogue often lacks believability, making one yearn for more layering or subtext, although all three actors and director Jimmy Fay do their best to propel the plot. And they’re well served by Alyson Cummins’ set design, Catherine Fay’s costumes, Sinead McKenna’s lighting, Philip Stewart’s sound and Donal O’Farrell’s fight direction.
Running 75 minutes with no intermission, this three-character play has the potential to be riveting theater with a timely message about the dangers of hatred and encouraging terrorism: “Kids can do more damage than you think.”
“Quietly” is scheduled to play through September 11, 2016.