Saturday, May 15, 2010

Off Broadway: The Irish Curse

Size matters. Perhaps not always - but it certainly does matter to at least some of the sexual partners of those "less well endowed" men who attend Father Kevin Shaunessy's weekly support group meeting for men with their "shortcomings" in the basement of St. Sebastian's Church in Brooklyn. And it clearly matters even more to the men themselves, whose tragic-comic stories encompass tales of their coping mechanisms ranging from the simplest placement of padding to conceal their physical inadequacies to the abandonment of sexual relations to avoid embarrassment to the withholding of true intimacy or ultimately even to the contemplation of suicide.

The Irish Curse
, playing at the Soho Playhouse at 15 Vandam Street in Manhattan through May 30, is a delightful comedy with a poignant core. It deals with the lives of five men suffering from "the Irish curse", an imagined genetic disability disproportionately affecting Irishmen: tiny penises variously described as being no larger than a bottle cap, baby corn or a cocktail weiner. The interplay among the men - at times angry and sarcastic but ultimately warm and supportive - provides wonderful theater and a load of laughs.

Martin Casella has written a sharp, insightful and very funny play. The five characters - Joseph, a divorced single father with two daughters; Rick, a young sports enthusiast in an apparently good heterosexual relationship; Stephen, a gay undercover cop; Keiran, a recently engaged young immigrant roofer; and Father Shaunessy - are all well drawn and immensely endearing. Whatever one's own situation, one can readily identify and empathize with them all.

All five actors' performances were spot on. In the performance I attended, Stephen's role, normally played by Austin Peck, was played by his understudy, Patrick James Lynch, so I cannot comment on how Mr. Peck would have played the role. But I must say that Mr. Lynch was outstanding and it is difficult to see how Mr. Peck could have done any better job than the one turned in by Mr. Lynch. Brian Leahy (Rick), Roderick Hill (Keiran) and Scott Jaeck (Father Shaunessy) were equally good but my highest praise must be reserved for Dan Butler (Joseph) whose dynamic performance was absolutely explosive.

This is a play well worth seeing, probably one of the best off Broadway shows around today, and I urge you to make every effort to see it before it closes.

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