Walking into The Playground at the Adrienne, with the set dressed in dark wood furniture, cinnamon brown wallpaper and white twinkle lights, I instantly felt warm and at home. The Irish inspired Christmas music in the background also put me in the holiday spirit. Even during the opening scene of Amaryllis Theatre Company’s DUBLIN CAROL felt welcoming as the two actors came in out of the cold and plugged in the fireplace on stage.That warm welcoming feeling of the holidays gradually transformed into a mournful sorrow as John and Mark (played by James Schlatter and Matt Mancuso) began to talk about their day, with John explaining to his young assistant the duties of an undertaker include “generally looking grave.” John also talked about dignity and respect, pointing out that if you didn’t have it while you were alive, not to go looking for it after you die. Ironically, John has his own issues with dignity and respect. Memories of his sordid past all come rushing back when his daughter Mary (played by Caitlin Antram) arrives unexpectedly.
Each actor brought an equal amount of intensity to their characters, which even came through their attempts at Irish accents. Each character had their share of emotions to deal with, which evolved seamlessly as the story unfolded.
James Schlatter portrayed John as a natural storyteller. Whether the story being told was joyful or painful, his cadence and pacing filled me with the matching emotion. He also did enough moving around on the stage for all three characters, and it gave just the right amount of motion for a play full of seated conversation.
At times I felt guilty for eavesdropping on such private and emotional moments, especially between John and Mary. Caitlin Antram depicted a very strong-willed Mary, but also revealed some of daddy’s little girl.
There were times I felt Matt Mancuso held back some of Mark’s emotion, but we definitely saw a different side of Mark in the third act. When he’s talking to John about relationships with women and alcohol we see more of Mark’s sensitive and fragile side, as well as a glimpse of what Mark could possible turn into in the future.
Even though the initial joyous holiday spirit that filled the air was somewhat diminished with sorrow, DUBLIN CAROL shows what some holiday family reunions and relationships look like. There was no overly enthusiastic moment of reconnecting or understanding that left me with a happily-ever-after feeling, but that’s not necessarily the most important part of this time of year. To me, it’s about giving thanks and forgiveness no matter what happened in the past. It’s a time to spread the love around, no matter how difficult that may be. DUBLIN CAROL shows this is possible.
by Conor McPherson
Directed by Mimi Kenney Smith
December 7 – 19, 2010
Amaryllis Theatre Company
at The Playground at The Adrienne
2030 Sansom Street