‘Irish Curse’ has nothing to do with drink, potatoes


Trauma flows from “diminutive front faucet”

Martin Casella hates to admit it, but he’s always been a rabid New York Yankees fan (although he was born in Las Vegas and grew up in Los Angeles).

A few years ago, when playwright and screenwriter Casella was at work on the script for a TV movie about blind Jersey City sports broadcaster Ed Lucas, he was taken by Lucas into the Yankees’ locker room at the (now extinct) House That Ruth Built.

“All these naked Yankees! David Wells! Darryl Strawberry…!”

Did Casella glance at their…um…equipment? The lengths of that equipment? It seemed a fair question to ask the guy who wrote “The Irish Curse.”

“No! I was so shocked. ‘Nice to meet you.’ Stuck out my hand and looked away.”

A big hit from the 2005 New York Fringe Festival, and now in an updated replay earning cheers at the Soho Playhouse, “The Irish Curse” is a comedy about the diminutive front faucet that all Irish males are supposedly cursed with.

The five males with whom we spend a couple of hours — four Irish-Americans and one lad from Ireland — have gathered together as a mutual support group in the basement meeting hall of St. Sebastian’s Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn Heights.

One of them, Rick (actor Brian Leahy), is a young hotshot showoff in his 20s. Another, Joseph (Dan Butler), is a tired lawyer in his 40s whose sexually frustrated wife has walked out, leaving him to care for their two young daughters. A third, Stephen (Austin Peck), is a tall, handsome, caustic, voraciously homosexual undercover cop on the illegal immigrant beat. The fourth, Kieran (Scott Jaeck), is the soulful kid from Ireland — a Queens-based roof repairer. The fifth is this church’s calming 50-ish Father Kevin himself (Roderick Hill), who turns out to be no less haunted than all the others by the Irish Curse.

Here’s a smidgin of it:

RICK: I think a lot of guys are really screwed up about the size of their dicks. I mean. It’s mostly guys who run the world, right? And you know that every single one of them wishes he was bigger…

JOSEPH: And when you add in a little testosterone, no wonder we have guns and wars and bombs and terrorists. I mean, just look at the Middle East! You wanna sit those folks down and slap them all silly! How long have Arabs and Jews been killing each other? And what for? Religion?!! Land?!!

KIERAN: It’s the same in Northern Ireland. With the Catholics and the bloody Protestants…

Marty Casella, who is only half-Irish — his mother’s side of the family, the Gallaghers — had never heard of the Irish Curse until some friends in Los Angeles started joking about it. “What’s that?” he asked them. When they told him, he didn’t believe it. But then, when he moved to New York in the mid-90s, he found a lot more people — Irish-American people — talking about it.

“In fact,” he says, “I was fascinated how people in the Northeast hang onto their ethnicity, because I came from where people really don’t do that.

“I’ve been accused of making this all up, but I wouldn’t make it up. As somebody pointed out to me, in Germany they don’t call German measles German measles. They have another name for it.”

Casella, who will be 54 in November, came out of the California Institute of the Arts as an actor, then started writing plays for some of his friends. “Got some help from Shakespeare and Lanford Wilson. ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ ”

He and his friends also founded the Mean Noises summertime theater company in space provided by the Santa Monica high school where Casella was a teacher in the wintertime.

“Nobody was mean and nobody made noises, but we did a lot of plays for ten years.”

He has been writing ever since; has worked as a big-screen or small-screen craftsman for almost everybody in the industry; also directs. Coming up under his guidance next month in the GayFest series at the Abingdon Theater on West 36th Street is “The Legacy,” a father-and-son drama by Adam Siegel.

Among his own plays, Casella is smilingly proud of “George Bush Goes to Hell” — in which George Bush and Dick Cheney find themselves in a very dark place lit only by a lantern carried by Lyndon Johnson; and then the lantern blinks out.

There is also “Desert Fire” — about some GIs dying off after they were forced to observe the 1945 atom bomb tests at Los Alamos, New Mexico (11 years before Casela was born. His reward for writing that one was death threats from various “patriots.”)

Someday soon, if the writing goes well, there’ll be a new play by Marty Casella called “Miss Maude” — about the black midwife in Pineville, South Carolina, who was immortalized by the camera of brilliant LIFE magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith.

Meantime there’s “The Irish Curse” — which has been refreshed by its author to encompass lines like: “Holy cow, Condi. Hussein’s hung!” and passages about “white men with bad hair and chicken dicks” who hate Barack Obama and his “Democratic wienie” so much “[that] they’re trying to destroy him…Starting these rumors that he’s an Arab. That he wasn’t born here. That he’s a Socialist. That he’s Hitler. Because they’re all so Goddamned jealous of Obama and his big dick!”

Might have added: and his even bigger brain.

Though the audience goes crazy over those lines every night, what “The Irish Curse” is really about, says the Greenwich Villager who wrote it (and who now teaches playwriting at the Harvey Milk High School on Astor Place) is “a bunch of guys who can’t have what they want” — a king-sized undercarriage — “but are really looking for some kind of kinship.”

As noted above, for all the laughter, and however corny, that can be rather touching. Even if you’re not Irish.