Molly Sweeney
New - PICK - Recommended
Brian Friel's 1994 play about an Irish woman whose sight is medically restored after a near lifetime of blindness receives a ravishing production by director Marianne Savell. With tenderness and specificity, both play and production ensnare us in the tragedy of the title character's eventual exile to a 'borderline country' between blindness and sight. They leave us, however, with something that transcends Friel's lyrical tale and even his examination of the state of the Irish woman, holding dire implications for any person or society ever taken up as a 'project' -- something, or someone, to repair. Savell and her cast lean gently into the nuances of Friel's web of monologues, which unfolds entirely in a rural Irish pub (meticulously rendered by set designer Dan Conroy and hauntingly lit by Katrina Kalatzis). Key to this production's success, the complexity of the performances dissuades us from moralizing about the impulses that lead to Molly's descent -- her unemployed husband's boundless, fickle enthusiasm and her physician Mr. Rice's shadowy blend of ambition and good will. Elizabeth A. Genge offers a Molly of rich insights and sensual details. Mark Hein's Mr. Rice is well measured and appropriately hard to pin down. Conroy is perfectly cast as the devoted, fact-hoarding, eccentric Frank Sweeney; his performance is hilarious and heart-rending by turns. Uilleann piping from musical arranger/barman Patrick D'Arcy is a rare treat and adds invaluably to the production. Eclectic Company Theater, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 20. (818) 508-3003. -- Anne Kelly-Saxenmeyer
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