Theater Review: 'DruidMurphy' -- 3 stars
Tom Murphy, one of Ireland's most prominent playwrights, is not as well-known in this country as many of his contemporaries. But that's about to change.
The Druid Theatre Company of Galway, which has previously produced marathons of plays by Irish writers like John Millington Synge and Samuel Beckett, has returned to Lincoln Center Festival with a lineup of three works by Murphy.
Although not exactly a trilogy, the plays share a common theme of leaving Ireland out of necessity or for personal fulfillment. They can be viewed separately or together over the course of nine hours.
"Conversations on a Homecoming" revolves around a would-be actor who left his small Irish town for New York a decade ago and returns for a visit. To his surprise, his boyhood companions have lost the idealistic spirit once instilled in them by their JFK-obsessed mentor, who is now drinking himself to death.
"A Whistle in the Dark," Murphy's most famous title, is brutal and graphic. A violent father, joined by four of his sons, visits his weakest child Michael, who lives in England with his non-Irish wife.
"Dada," as he is called, proceeds to tear the home apart, even setting up a street brawl with a rival family, while Michael feels torn apart by disgust and family loyalty. Niall Buggy, as Dada, gives a fiery performance full of bravado and primitive temperament.
"Famine," the most epic piece, depicts the Irish Potato Famine of the 19th century in a series of bleak scenes. As officials argue that there is no solution short of mass emigration, starved villagers are seen dying in the background.
As directed by Garry Hynes and performed by an excellent ensemble, "DruidMurphy" makes for an exceptional theatrical experience that is captivating despite offering endless hours of gloom and doom.
If you go: "DruidMurphy" plays at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College through July 14. 899 Tenth Ave., 212-721-6500, lincolncenterfestival.org.