Winner of the 1992 Tony Award for Best Play, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel is memory play, set in 1936, that follows the events that lead up to the downfall of the Mundy family. Loosely based on the past of Friel’s mother and aunts, the Mundys live in the fictional town of Ballybeg, a small village in Northern Ireland.
In an interesting juxtaposition, the events take place around a festival for the harvest. An adult Michael (Travis Young) reminisces about that summer and the return of his father (Jeremy Harrison), the sisters’ brother Jack’s (George Deavours) return from Uganda, and the circumstances that begin to take a toll on the family.
Directed by Tess Malis Kincaid, the cast creates a tapestry of emotions that engage the audience and threads the narrative of the sisters, beginning with Michael’s recollection of the family’s first radio, which isn’t all that reliable, and the folk dancing that inhabited the kitchen.
The head of the family is the prim and proper Kate (Ann Wilson), a school teacher. Played skillfully by Wilson, the character attempts to be the standard-bearer and keeper of the Catholic traditions. The middle sister is the hardworking Agnes (Erin Considine), who is closest to developmentally disabled Rose (Mary Saville). The other two sisters are the joker Maggie (Gina Rickicki) and Michael’s mother Chris (Rachel Frawley), the youngest.
All of the ladies in the cast are engaging and wonderful to watch. Each one has a moment to shine, and they mine the depth of their characters believably. The male cast members, on the other hand, struggled to make emotional connections on par with the female cast members.
The picturesque set, designed by Chuck Welcome, works well for the production by creating a quaint cottage and the surrounding hillside. Both Jenny Holden’s costume design and John David Williams’ lighting design compliment the set by drawing the audience into the story. But, it is Dan Bauman’s sound design that is the unsung hero. He has created the sounds of a radio, interference and music that add a delightful layer to the show.
A bittersweet tale, Dancing at Lughnasa plays at Dunwoody’s Stage Door Players through June 9, 2013. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is two and half hours with a fifteen minute intermission.
– A. Wesley