Dude, Where’s My Carr?

Marina Carr’s Portia Coughlan; Lauren Weedman’s Homecoming; Jimmy Murphy’s The Kings of the Kilburn High Road.

Certain glossy magazines may enthusiastically announce a girl’s thirties to be her new twenties, but our heroine hasn’t been keeping up with her reading. The 30th-birthday girl in question, playwright Marina Carr’s eponymous Portia Coughlan (Show World), is approaching the anniversary unmerciful and strained. Her loveless marriage, meaningless affairs, and insufferable family don’t help much. But it’s Portia’s twin brother, Gabriel, who drowned himself 15 years ago and has haunted her since, who’s putting her off her cake.

Celtic writer Carr scripts an appealing, low-rent Irish gothic—more factory town than lordly manse, more bottle of cider than cask of amontillado. But in the hands of director Aaron Beall, Carr’s palatable distillation grows as murky as an Irish stew. Beall’s one intervention is larding the play with selections culled from New York’s Irish bar jukeboxes. But the musical interludes at the end of every scene (or, owing to miscuing, amid scenes) slow the plot. Such a long time elapses between the play’s mystery and revelation that you could well forget what you didn’t know.

As a whole, the performances are similarly forgettable. Beall has assembled an apparently able cast, but hasn’t encouraged them to form relationships with one another —each performs his or her part tolerably well in a sort of vacuum. As the titular Gaelic gamine, Mercedes McAndrew proves difficult to judge- she either skillfully captures a woman distanced from her emotional life or, as an actor, is almost incapable of projecting much emotional life at all. Though popular with some regional theaters, Carr has not been staged much in Manhattan, and- directorial missteps aside- it’s a pity. Perhaps Portia, when blowing out her candles, could wish for a few new productions.
Alexis Soloski

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