Lizzie Sweeney played with a shaky unbeaten

Despite its origin as a tale of rural Ireland in 1964, the only nostalgic moment in this Patrick Talbot production of a famous play is when the curtain falls. This smooth closing of a story in which the emotional potential of silence is so significantly articulated is in itself an act of memory.

If there is any suspicion that the theme of a frustrated son leaving a village cloistered by his own conventions may be outdated, they are defeated by this presentation. The originality of playwright Brian Friel’s device of a protagonist revealed by both his outer and inner self – his illusions and realities, his dreams and his conscience expressed with raw irony – ensures that it is about a piece of our time.

Sparse set by Sabine Dargent, costumes by Liv Monaghan, sound by Cormac O’Connor, and lighting by Paul Denby support a piece carefully wrapped like an egg of free-range hens

Riddled with the assumptions of comic book America, Gar O’Donnell is on his way to the land of sun and promise. Audience Gar (Shane O’Regan) accepts typical farewell visits from his community, guys overflowing with bravado and whimsy, a failed teacher, a housekeeper with stoic affection. Armed with an Edmund Burke reading of the French Revolution, the private Gar (Alex Murphy) sees through it all and sees beyond, realizing that Gar never interpreted his monosyllabic father’s ingrained feelings. Hindered by time and chance, emotional close calls strike like missives of unread signals.

Sparse set by Sabine Dargent, costumes by Liv Monaghan, sound by Cormac O’Connor, and lighting by Paul Denby support a piece carefully wrapped like an egg of free-range hens. Deepening his essay on loss and setting off on a curve from the stripped to the verbose, Friel examines this aspiration that can only find comfort in headlong speech. Fionula Linehan’s fragile invincibility as Lizzie Sweeney is at odds with the exuberance of youthful optimism. Sober or very vocal, these performances testify to director Geoff Gould’s respect for the screenplay and its intentions, while Catherine Walsh, Seamus O’Rourke and Mark O’Regan carry a conviction that takes unadorned reading to heart.

Continue to Liège opera house until Saturday October 16

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