Rory & the Devil

ensemble theatre · by david mcelwee · Ages 13+ · United States of America

world premiere
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June 26, 2019 certified reviewer
tagged as: Ireland · IRA · Irish · british · Vietnam · 1970's · feminism · Feminist · play · ensemble · Twist · ghosts · mythology · poetry · storytelling · powerful

What I liked

This production is truly special. Playwright David McElwee clearly crafted this play from the heart. After the show, I found out that certain aspects of the story were based on details of his life, family, and heritage, but never once did I suspect this was a vanity project; the play was a love letter to poetry, theater, storytelling, mythology, and most importantly, to Ireland. The staging and introduction to the play were pure magic. I won’t give anything away, but if you know that feeling of entering a neighborhood pub—the comfort, the melancholy, the familiarity, the history—that’s how I felt entering the theater space, even with its barely-there set, well-lit audience, and tins of beer all around. Every actor in this play gave top-notch performances; they are the real deal, and they delivered Broadway-level artistry. Considering I was sitting feet away from their bodies and voices, I was never more than a fly on the wall as single tear drops, beads of sweat, and understated sighs resonated with sincerity and simplicity. John Harnagle’s “moment” (again, I won’t give anything away) is why I go to the theater: poetic language, vivid imagery, and a heightened delivery that changes the atmosphere and makes time stand still. But truth be told, Jennifer Lane Oakley stole the show. She has that thing thing that so many performers don’t have the skill or confidence to settle into: stillness. She embodied her character with a grounded understatement that made her “moment” (not gonna give it away) wash over me with such shocking resonance that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…even though it all made sense afterwards due to the subtle progression of her character’s development. Her physical beauty, which is a joy to consume, steadily fades as her character’s truth and motivations emerge from behind her dark eyes. She tricks you into thinking she’s just the lass-next-door. But really, she is a feminist icon who embodies love of family and country more than any outspoken lad ever could.

What I didn't like

I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. Bravo to a slick, polished, yet homemade production.

My overall impression

An excellent and riveting play with a gorgeous script, brilliant cast, and transporting setting.

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