Right now, at this very moment, the Origin’s 1st Irish Festival has taken over the lovely spaces of 59E59. This is a pretty important piece of trivia to know, since it is the only theatre festival in the world dedicated to Irish playwrights, which is crazy to think about when you count the number of great works that have come from them. Needless to say, the pressure to make an impression with the productions in this festival must be taxing. Well, let me tell you “Little Thing, Big Thing” delivers, and it is nothing like you expect it to be.
Director Jim Cullerton brings Donal O’Kelly’s words to life in an action-packed production, and once it gets a hold of you, you won’t turn away. An ex-con doing one last job gets into even bigger trouble when he runs into Martha, a nun that is in peril thanks to something she has in her possession. What she has is a film roll wanted by dangerous and ambitious people that will stop at nothing to get it. And from there it flies through the 80 minute run time with a combination of onomatopoeic storytelling, interesting and effective blocking, and an incredible set to create the pace in which we get lost and entertained. The set is definitely worth mentioning. A cage-like wall in a 180 angle with two entrances and some chairs to fill the space is all that is required. Set and Lighting designer John Comiskey’s work makes it comfortable for the actors to immerse themselves in the world and play the plethora of characters they have to become, which definitely made Cullerton’s job easier, which is to say, Comiskey provided the director with the perfect tools to construct the production, and Cullerton ran with it.
The work by Donal O’ Kelly could have certainly failed even with all those things working on their favor if it wasn’t for the performers. The characters are many, and they wear all the hats with such precision you forget they were playing a different character just before. Add to that the fact that they serve as narrators, creating the action pieces by telling the audience what they cannot see and providing the sounds for what’s unfolding. Donal O’Kelly himself is incredible, diving deep into his main character to create sympathy while still having to inhabit the body of others. The same goes for Sorcha Fox who tackles these characters with such force and maturity we are left in awe by her. At the end, after such a stimulating and rousing time at the theater I couldn’t help not only feeling satisfied, but also wanting to see more from this team.
I commented a couple of weeks ago how the action on another production was so innovative and just plain fun. I didn’t think just a few weeks later I would see a show that rival the thrillers made in Hollywood during the 70’s new Hollywood era. But it wasn’t on my television or a movie screen, no, it was on stage as part of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival. And it will be on stage until September 27. There are not many shows like this out there, and we don’t have the privilege to see many Irish playwright productions in New York City. If I haven’t given you enough reasons for you to go, let me make it clear: Go! Plays like this could help reach an audience that seemed unreachable till now. Bravo to Donal O’Kelly, Jim Cullerton and the rest of the team for such an enjoyable production.
Twisted Talk: What was the last show you saw in New York City? Have you seen any shows by Irish playwrights? Discuss below!