Don’t linger in the lobby too long during the intermission of this play. If you do you will miss some of the truly golden chords in this talented cast crooning Irish tunes with fiddle and guitar in hand. And though the Dublin setting of this story is quite obvious by the accents and surrounds right from the gitgo (Dialect Coach: Shannon Leigh Webber), the morphing of the intermission-timed regaling to the re-initiation of the play proper goes right to Ireland’s soul. The women wear lace kerchiefs on their head as the pious do to Church; the men are rollicking about with a pint in hand. This is Dublin Central.
The title role character, Alfie (played by Ryan Lanning), is a bus conductor with a secret crush on his co-worker, bus driver Robbie Fay (played by Nick Arceo). He has a Walter Mitty styled fascination with Oscar Wilde (played by Kevin O’Connell, who has multiple parts) and a deep-seated theater bug that he gives vent to by periodically staging plays in his Church basement. At the play’s outset we learn that the Archbishop has banned the latest production, Salome, for being too risqué. The story then dials backwards to fill us in on how we got to this moment, including a searingly painful outing of Alfie’s homosexual longings.
Pride Films and Plays Puts a Spotlight on Homophobic Hate Crimes
This penultimate scene of Alfie’s outing is an overdose of homophobia that somehow feels even more toxic– at least for this writer--- because it happens in a sea of lighthearted music and the fun and funny lovable characters who people Alfie’s world.
These characters- and they all are characters-- join Alfie in the Church basement and a shared love of theater’s make believe.
If you too have loved a community theater production precisely because you know what the cast lacks in talent it more than makes up for in enthusiasm you will likely adore these pretend-amateur performances. You love to hear them sing off key, say lines too loud and make a dance move with less-than-grace. Self-awareness is on a holiday and you gotta love it. The performances—all—are top notch. Lanning’s Alfie – always a bit hunched and hesitant, and ever gentlemanly—is especially one that carries the story well.
In this writer’s view there is much to enjoy in this Celtic charmer of a musical (Music Director: Robert Ollis). Though none of the songs are ones you feel compelled to hum as you leave, they do give a lilt throughout, picking up where the accents leave off. If you love musical theater add this to your short list of top picks for your time.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Ryan Lanning (Alfie Byrne), Nick Arceo (Robbie Fay), Ciera Dawn (Adele Rice), Sarah Beth Tanner (Lily), Tommy Bullington (Carney), Ryan Armstrong (Ernie, Rasher Flynn), Tiffany Taylor (Mrs. Patrick), Ian Rigg (Father Kenny), Kimberly Lawson (Mrs. Grace), Jessica Lauren Fisher (Miss Crowe), Christopher Davis (Baldy), Orlando Shelly (Peter), Amanda Giles (Mrs. Curtin), Thomas Tong (Sully O’Hara), Kevin O’Connell (Brenton Beret, Oscar Wilde), Patrick O’Keefe (Swing) and Jenni Carroll (Swing).
Donterrio Johnson (director), Robert Ollis (music director), Robert S. Kuhn (costume design), Evan Frank (scenic design), Mike McShane (lighting design), Isaac Mandel (sound design), Props Design (Matthew Zalinski), Allison Petrillo (assistant director), Emily Marrazzo (stage manager), Finn Taylor (assistant stage manager), Shannon Legh Webber (dialect coach), and Justus Wright (sound engineer).
Thru November 17, 2019
Pride Arts Center
4139 N. Broadway, Chicago