The cell’s production of Honor Molloy’s Crackskull Row, currently playing the Irish Repertory Theatre in Manhattan, is a raw portrait of a family that explores its history of “desperate actions and forbidden loves.” The 75-minute play, which runs through March 19, follows a mother and son as they reconnect following the son’s release from prison, but all is not what it seems in this dramedy of reality and myth.
The play, directed by Kira Simring, stars Terry Donnelly, Colin Lane, Gina Costigan and John Charles McLaughlin, most of them in double roles.
Lane, an Irish Rep alumnus, was brought into the production at the last minute, and he’s so happy Irish Rep found him for the parts of Rasher and Basher. “They were down to the wire,” the actor said recently in a phone interview. “They exhausted all other avenues. They were stuck, and somebody recommended me. … So they sent me the script, I believe, and I live in Connecticut. And I read it on the train in to the audition, and I was totally confused. When I got to do the reading, they asked what I thought of it. I said, ‘They live in a fireplace?’”
There is a touch of the surreal in Crackskull Row, and on paper it can be a difficult paper to decipher. Lane freely admitted to being confounded by the narrative, especially with the double casting. However, after time studying the script, he began to appreciate what Molloy had done with the dialogue and characters.
The most prominent role Lane plays is a man returning home after a 33-year sentence in prison for murdering his father. His second role he plays is the father. The subject matter in the play, which also includes incest and domestic abuse, can be difficult for the audience.
What convinced Lane this was an important play was the opening line. The wording and cadence of the spoken words set up the play in such a poetic manner that the actor was hooked. “I thought if I get to rehearse this play and understand it and to be able to tell the story like I know what I’m talking about, it’ll be great,” he said. “I love that line more than anything else. They offered it to me, and I said OK because of that line. … In a way, it’s like the first line of American Buffalo, the David Mamet play.”
That line will remain a secret in this article, but it seems to have a equally stirring effect on audience members, who have only a few weeks left to catch Lane in his double performance.
But more than the opening line, the actor fell in love with the rest of the dialogue in the play, what Lane called a “Dublin patois.”
“We fully embraced everything about the story,” Lane said. “I suppose the language allows us to act in a way we wouldn’t normally act. It has room for a little bit of indulgence, and it is poetry. So you can do the whole gamut from onomonapaeia to metaphor to all the rules. By now [I realize] the sentences have a weird construction, and sometimes it’s one word, full stop, period. One word, period, and we’re so familiar with the text now, I know personally I see the periods. I see the grammar. I see the punctuation. I see everything, and the only other place where you really see that is in Shakespeare where you’re aware of the punctuation.”
The actor enjoys the language for a number of reasons, one is probably because he’s a Dubliner himself. Plus, with the help of the director, Simring, he was able to fine-tune his performance.
“I developed an acute case of stage fright as well, so it was that rawness and roughness in everything that I did that she in a way smoothed it out,” he said. “She was definitely hands on, still is. She polished the rawness that I was contributing. That’s what she did. Yes, she directed in that way. It was what I contributed, but she made it better. It’s been an experience. I’ve been 35 years a professional actor, and I’ve never had such an experience.”
Lane was not new to working with Donnelly on stage. Their professional relationship goes back 35 years to a production of The Importance of Being Ernest. “Our careers have overlapped, and we’ve done several things together,” he said. “My daughter who just got her MFA from NYU, when she came to see the first production of it, she said it’s a master class, Terry and I on stage. It’s great to work with her, and then the other two young ones are fantastic, too. It’s just a great cast.”
As far as the Irish Rep, Lane had nothing but superlatives, praising the co-founders of the institution, Ciarán O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore. “They have a great reputation of just being an environment that nurtures,” Lane said. “I love being at the Rep. I’m very proud of the Rep, and the Rep makes you proud to be Irish. That’s what it is. You see this talent, and you see what it’s doing. And it has gained fantastic reputation amongst all the actors in New York. They don’t seem to have any problems getting whoever they want. Matthew Broderick was just there.”
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com