Theatre Arts program presents ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’

Jason Ounpraseuth
Connector Staff

Dancing at Lughnasa’ delivered a story of a dynamic family that was brought to life thanks to a great cast and their wonderful chemistry.
The Theatre Arts Program presented the play “Dancing at Lughnasa” at the Comley-Lane Theatre in Mahoney Hall to a sold-out crowd. It was directed by Jennie Israel, a founding member of the Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Boston who has previously directed productions at UMass Lowell.

“Dancing at Lughnasa” was written by Irish playwright Brian Friel and was published in 1990. The show is set in a fictional town in Ireland in the 1930s. It tells the story of five sisters, their brother whose memory is fading and their young nephew as they struggle to make ends meet. It is a memory play told by the nephew, Michael, when he is an adult as he recalls what life at his mother’s and aunts’ house used to be like during this time.

The strongest aspect of this play was the lived-in atmosphere of it. The set design was incredible and helped the aesthetics of the play and gave the impression that the actors were living in this home in 1930s Ireland.

The actors’ chemistry also helped make the play lived-in, and it helped establish the bond the family shares especially the sisters.

Most of the play follows the five sisters of the family: Chris, Maggie, Agnes, Rose and Kate. The actresses do a great job at establishing their characters and establishing the hierarchy of the family.

The family dynamics show Kate’s conservative attitude that clashes with the free-spirited natures of the other members of the family. Each moment and conversation the sisters share help build their characters effectively throughout the play.

The relationship between Gerry and Chris is one of the bigger one-on-one relationships that is explored throughout the play. Gerry is Michael’s father, and Michael, being the protagonist, views his father as a happy-go-lucky man who always as his family’s back.

The true revelations of Gerry were predictable and cliché, but the actors sold it well enough to show how Michael is affected by his parents’ relationship.

One of the highlight characters was Jack. Jack’s loose memory and his experiences in Uganda help humanize a character that brings a lot of laughs to the play. Jack is a very bombastic character but is played with enough subtly that helps keep the tone of the play and keep the audience in a scene.

The one problem of “Dancing at Lughnasa” is that there are moments where scenes waver from time to time. Not every scene is engaging and there a few scenes that fell flat. This is a minor complaint since these scenes are important to the play because they further help build characters and relationships.

“Dancing at Lughnasa” is an interesting memory play told from the viewpoint of young Michael that keeps viewers engaged with the relationships in the play thanks to the amazing chemistry from the cast.

Final Grade: A-

Connector editor Michaela Goss contributed to this article.

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