Mad Cow Theater, Orlando FL
Book by Enda Walsh
Music by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová
Based on a show by John Carney
Directed by Mark Edward Smith
Starring Josh Eleazer and Brittany Halen
For a moment there, I thought we were up in Boston. But it’s only Boston East, otherwise known as Dublin. The bar seems like it’s in Boston; it’s filled with Celtic characters all with a strong sense of musicianship skating on the edge of alcoholism . Business is slow tonight and while the evening starts late, the band vamps effortlessly and we never feel alone or delayed. Business is slow in this bar, but that gives everyone time to practice. One good Dubliner, Guy (Eleazer,) is ready to hang up his guitar and stick to fixing Eletroluxes. He runs into Czeck immigrant Reza (Halen) and she talks him out of suicide and into spending more time with his guitar. He’s got a decent song or two, and they find their way to a group of musicians jamming in a shop led by Billy (Charles Stevens). Here a small tiff arises over who’s hooking up with who. The question arises because of practical Reza who is part of a small Czech community is working in Dublin thanks to lax EU work rules. Her flat mates love British soap operas, and a real soap opera occurs as Guy and Billy quarrel over who ought to date who. But that’s a side show, soon the whole lot of these talented players force Guy to get his act together and they scrounge studio time and make a record. Their songs are pretty decent, but cometition is stiff. Perhaps Guy can make the big time, and he heads to New York to try his luck with another girl friend. I’ll say this for Guy: He’s flexible.
There’s a good wash of soap opera here, peopled by a strong set of character actors acting like great characters. The music feels grand and bitter sweet just like a couple fighting things out between love and hate and obligation to those perhaps not fully obligated to each other. Behind the serious tension Guy and Reza create we discover an excellent if occasionally goofy ensemble cast. We have Stevens as the large funny man filled with nonspecific Irish racism, the long Czech monologs (projected in Czech) from Reza’s mom Bauska (Susi Rivera) and the delightful bank manager and self-confessed “Penis Man” Sean Powel. I also enjoyed Andrew Romano as Svec, the Czech heavy metal drummer who they need to tone down the drum solo for the gentle love song Guy and Reza set out to record. There’s a message here of hope in the face of long odds, and that’s we love in the theater. I suspect Guy’s song will be washed away in the sea of competent musicians trying to make it to the bottom of the charts, but as in so many things, it’s the journey we want to see. We may have missed Saint Paddy’s and Valentine’s days, but it still never too late for a pleasant cross-cultural love story, complete with a solid backing band.