This review of Honor Molloy's Crackskull Row at The Workshop Theater (Main Stage) was written by Kathy Towson and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Written by Honor Molloy
Directed by Kira Simring
The Workshop Theater (Main Stage)
312 West 36th Street
New York, New York 10036
One sits down to a very impressive set portraying a home that has seen better days but still appears to be warm and inviting with very pleasant Irish music playing. We will come to discover the lives of those within have been anything but warm and inviting. The title of the show refers to the name of the Dublin street where the play is set in 1999.
I am someone who prefers a clear, linear storyline but to watch Crackskull Row, you must suspend wanting immediate gratification or clarity; just go along for the ride and know "all will be revealed in time" since this is anything but linear, and does indeed, as advertised "meld reality and myth." It also takes a scene or two (not having a trained ear for Irish English) to fully understand the language. Consequently, I found the dialogue of the first few scenes very confusing and a little too "out of this world" to enjoy what was happening. Perhaps this was to be expected since Crackskull Row is an entry in Origin Theatre's 2016 1st Irish Theatre Festival. I also found it hard to understand who the characters (Masher Moorigan, played by Terry Donnelly, and Dolly, played by Gina Costigan) actually were or what was going on. However, some very clever writing in those scenes did catch my attention such as "White Sugar is the White Devil."
As we progress into the scene where the character of present day Rasher Moorigan, the son, played by Colin Lane, has a monologue with the audience and takes us back in time, a very negative family dynamic is revealed and the play then becomes a very gripping story. There is a powerfully unsettling scene between young Rasher, played by John Charles McLaughlin and Masher, the mother, during which incest is revealed. I applaud the director, Kira Simring, for her hand in staging the action in such a merely suggestive, and yet, simultaneously, very disturbing manner. It is evident throughout the show why Ms. Simring is an award-winning director. It is also in this scene that I felt Honor Molloy's haunting pen, with the line, "Mother, you are my dearest wish." Additional memorable dialogue is delivered by John Charles McLaughlin, who deftly changes characters into the ESB Electric Boy, where he explains, "I am here to fix the future. I can't fix the past" - the main takeaway message that resonated with me long after the end of the show.
We are taken on a familiar journey of hope and despair when, with the son's encouragement, the mother vows to stop being a prostitute, to get a good job, and to leave her abusive husband for a real home, only to let fear hold her back, which would eventually result in her institutionalization. A very good warning from Ms. Molloy to anyone listening. Although the synopsis of the play in publicity and the program would lead one to believe the majority of the story would be between the mother and the ex-prison son come home, I was disappointed that said encounter does not actually happen until the very last few minutes of the play. It is also at that time when the older and younger Rasher and older and younger Dolly and Masher are juxtaposed on stage with alternating dialogue. This is an exceptionally well-written and impressively acted scene.
I understand why the publicity was purposely vague in not telling us the specifics of the crime. It would spoil the unexpected and exciting twists and turns the plot takes as it builds to a gratifying and unexpected finish. The talents of the actors playing multiple parts made me truly believe there were seven characters on stage instead of four, and once I understood the storyline alternating between past and present, reality and fantasy, I found the play to be well-staged and engrossing.
I strongly advise against attendance by anyone under 18 but encourage anyone who appreciates good acting, writing and directing, and who is willing, and strong enough, to venture into an emotionally challenging place, to see Crackskull Row. This show is not for the sensitive or faint of heart but will leave a lasting impression.
To purchase tickets ($25.00), call 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.thecelltheatre.org