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"A Couple of Blaguards" - (review)

Short Description of "A Couple of Blaguards" - (review)

“A Couple of Blaguards”

At Proctors

State St, Schenectady

thru 10/5

http://proctors.org

 

Maybe it really is an Irish-thing, but search the definition of a Blaguard on the web, and the word doesn't pop up. You get lots of near misses. But that one little tidbit doesn't stop Jarlath Conroy and Howard Platt from delivering a standing-ovation performance in one deeply moving, rollicking good time at Proctors in their production of “A Couple of Blaguards”. The show runs through 10/5, and is a guaranteed good time about the miserable childhood of the authors. Yes, comedy in misery, go figure. Take darkness and spin it into laughter, Irish songs and humor, with virtually no set whatsoever and get a standing ovation—well, that's hard to do.

 

A Couple of Blaguards is the brainstorm of Frank McCourt and Malachy McCourt, and centers around what it was like to grow up in Limerick, Ireland, poor, young, Irish and Catholic. The story had been told before, more or less, by Frank in his best selling book “Angela's Ashes”, which was a Pulitzer Prize winner that sold more than one million copies and later became a movie. Frank, a school teacher in New York City for thirty years, passed away in 2009, but forever laid the groundwork of his childhood in Limerick when he wrote:

 

It was, of course, a miserable childhood: The happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

 

A Couple of Blaguards came to retell the story as a play, and that's a good thing. Angela's Ashes was dark and somber; Blaguards is funny and a guaranteed good time.

 

The stage opens up to two chairs and no real background. There is no flash here, just a little music and voices from time to time. Our presenters, Jarlath Conroy and Howard Platt, then appear from different sides of the stage holding a glass each of one our favorites brews. In Act I, we find ourselves in Limerick, Ireland, in unfathomable poverty, a father who was a drunk and left us, and with the community dumping outhouse sewage right at the foot of our lawn.

 

Yet somehow, as the story unfolds, you find yourself laughing—and not just a little.

 

“If they build urinals for the men, they need to build arsenals for the women.”

 

We are walked through monologue and dialogue of experiences back there, in early Limerick, a place evidently no child dare go. We are treated to stories of beatings by the nuns, submission to the church and the complete denial of all things human; There is absolutely no money, complete adherence to unbending doctrine, the denial of all things human, all in a town where the girls were taught one word--”No!”. Still, we find ourselves laughing in one of the darkest comedies to ever be written. The comedic relief comes in short, connected bursts as told through a sordid tale of experiences.

 

The story continues into Act 2, where we find ourselves in Brooklyn, and the New York fun begins. New York streets were lined with gold, all right—just not in Brooklyn, where our brothers landed. We come full circle with, well, with  Angela's ashes.

 

How we take such a seemingly miserable existence and turn it into one hilarious, rollicking good time, I don't know—but our pair did. That they also sing great Irish tunes is an added benefit. Similar to “Blood Type: Ragu”, a solo work about growing up Italian in Queens, the success of an improv falls squarely on the talent of the players who play multiple roles. With dollar store wigs and shirts that seconded as shawls, this performance is in so many ways brilliant. The production stands firmly on the content and the shoulders of our dynamic duo. Techno-anything is not needed. This story tells itself. And that, my friends, is usually the ingredient of a great work.

 

With the Irish2000 festival just a few weeks behind us, Blaguards is a perfect night out as the chill of Fall settles. It's Fall. Winter is coming. Go treat yourself to a laugh or ten.

 

--Richard DiMaggio, didyouweekend.com

Contact Information

Address: 432 State St, Schenectady, NY 12305

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