Reviewed by Amanda Halkiotis
A potato gun, a bottle of Jameson, and an opening-scene rendition of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” would in lesser hands be a formula for disaster on any stage, inviting ethnocentric overkill and exaggerated nostalgia for one’s homeland. Lucky for Nora Sun McLaughlin (and her audience), her new play The Giant’s Causeways is excellently balanced.
Bringing together politics, humor, history and brotherhood, McLaughlin wraps these themes tightly around each other to create an earnest and straightforward framework for her characters. This works exceptionally well considering the turbulent backdrop of Belfast circa 1969-1971. Good for a laugh, working class, and Catholic, Conall (Thomas Hodgskin) is determined “no matter what happens” not to let current events divide him and his best friend who just happens to be Protestant, the practical, buttoned-up Seamus (James Fauvell). As blood gets shed and family members murdered, this innocent pact becomes harder to uphold than either expected. Things get heated and personal once the British Army starts entering the city limits, and suddenly all bets are off. These two boys, who once only ever argued over their conflicting taste in famous actresses, now begin attacking each other on every standpoint.
Conall’s suggestion to go away on holiday together sparks suspicion of anarchist political affiliations from Seamus, who chides Conall that “the IRA stands for I Ran Away.” Meanwhile Seamus, with a widowed mother and several younger sisters on his hands, feels forced to join the Loyalist army, the United Volunteer Force, against Conall’s concerned pleading. Inspired by an anecdote she once heard her father tell about a return trip home he took during “the Troubles”, McLaughlin pulls her weight as a true Irish storyteller whose narrative style of vivid imagery and upbeat humor makes this play feel more like fluid prose at times. A jarring history lesson as much as an account of the tender loss of innocence, Giant’s Causeways is the marking of great theater: it invites you into a world you may not have experienced otherwise, and changes the way you once may have viewed it.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.