by Brian Friel
directed by: Charlotte Moore
January 19 – April 10, 2011
Brian Friel, Ireland’s master storyteller (Dancing at Lughnasa, Translations, Philadelphia, Here I Come) has devised a riveting contemporary drama about the terrible consequences of a medical miracle.
Molly has sat in happy, capable, independent darkness since she was ten months old. When her husband, a restless, unemployed enthusiast makes her blindness his latest cause, he consults a once famous star surgeon who, despite being half drowned in Irish whiskey agrees to attempt to restore Molly’s sight.
When the bandages come off, remarkable revelations ensue. The privacy of blindness is assaulted. Can one “learn to see”? Or will the shock of realization overwhelm a beautiful woman who has never seen her face! Friel’s fascinating journey plunges deeply into the secrets and hearts of three extraordinary characters who lower the veil and allow us into their very private lives.
“MOLLY SWEENEY IS ONE OF MR. FRIEL’S MOST REMARKABLE PLAYS, This revival, staged by Charlotte Moore, is IMMENSELY PERSUASIVE. A devastating parable of disappointment in all its terrible forms, and one that is vastly more powerful because it is so understated. Never do you feel as though Ms. Moore’s three fine actors are “performing.” (IT) IS SO GOOD THAT IT ACTUALLY MADE ME SHIVER—REPEATEDLY. ” — Wall Street Journal
“A deeply moving meditation on hope, change and despair, it’s A COMPELLING PIECE OF THEATER, ONE IN WHICH THE ENDING APPLAUSE IS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF THE PLAY’S EFFECTS. For the careful viewer “Molly Sweeney” is an astonishing work, one that acutely examines its characters and asks us to make similar observations of ourselves. Not least important, it’s a highly entertaining play, often delivering laughs while posing its questions. Those laughs soon fade away, as laughs will. Those questions, however, stay with you.” — New York Times
“A POTENT REVIVAL GERALDINE HUGHES COMPLETELY CAPTIVATES WITH HER COMPELLING PERFORMANCE, eyes half-closed and head swiveling gently, not looking directly at the audience. O’Reilly energetically presents Frank Sweeney as funny and likable, a fast-talking, sincere but misguided man. Rice, a once-brilliant surgeon but now a washed-up alcoholic, is well-played by Hogan with weary, sardonic detachment. Charlotte Moore has staged the three actors in separate pools of light. Although presenting individually, their stories overlap, and Friel’s lyrical, yet natural-sounding dialogue, including clever plays on words, paints vivid mental pictures of things the characters have experienced together. The tragedy that unspools in the second act is haunting.” — Associated Press
“HUGHES BEAUTIFULLY DEPICTS MOLLY’S LUMINOUS SPIRIT, AND O’REILLY IS RICHLY ENTERTAINING AS THE MANICALLY ENTHUSIASTIC FRANK.” — NY Post
“VISIONARY PLAY WORTH SEEING! Three different chairs and windows suggest a trio of locations in director Charlotte Moore’s spare staging. It goes well with Friel’s simple but eloquent language about good people who, ironically, pay an awful price for what’s meant to be a gift. Each actor in the cast makes a memorable impression. A POTENT AND BEAUTIFULLY ACTED REVIVAL. ” — Daily News
“There’s no dialogue in this fine revival of Brian Friel’s 1994 play, which is appropriate, considering its theme of isolation among people with sincere sympathy for one another. THERE IS, HOWEVER, NO SHORTAGE OF LOQUACIOUSNESS – EMOTIONAL, COMICAL, SCIENTIFIC, AND PHILOSOPHICAL. The playwright has structured the work as a succession of monologues delivered by his three characters: Molly (Geraldine Hughes), a middle-aged Donegal woman who has been blind since infancy; her husband, Frank (Ciarán O’Reilly), who is obsessed with finding a cure for her condition; and Mr. Rice (Jonathan Hogan), an ophthalmologist who operates on her. The director Charlotte Moore, coaxes THREE WONDERFUL, MOVING PERFORMANCES, all inspired by Friel’s deft characterizations of complicated motives, reactions, and relationships.” — New Yorker
CRITICS PICK! “Staged with economy and sensitivity by artistic director Charlotte Moore, the three-part chamber piece achieves a remarkable intimacy. With the actors so close, it feels as if you’re sharing a pint with the characters along with their life stories. GERALDINE HUGHES ENDOWS MOLLY WITH AN INTESITY THAT’S ALMOST TOO BRILLIANT TO BEAR. She magnificently conveys this huge-spirited woman’s thirst for life.” — Backstage
“HUGHES, O’REILLY, AND HOGAN MEET EVERY ACTING CHALLENGE PRESENTED TO THEM. Her head tilted upward and slowly swiveling left and right and with her eyes partially closed—Hughes creates a tragic portrait of a happily-adjusted 41-year-old woman robbed of everything that made her happy. O’Reilly is a fine figure of another positive person thrown into inexplicable loss at something that should have been uplifting, and Hogan provides sympathy for a character at once proud of his profession and confused by his private life. THEY ALL DESERVE TO BE SEEN.” — Theatermania
“A COMPELLING, TOUCHING PRODUCTION…THE STAGING BY DIRECTOR CHARLOTTE MOORE IS IMPECCABLE, AND THE LEVEL OF ACTING IS AN ACHIEVEMENT OF BEAUTY. Geraldine Hughes gives a luminous performance as Molly. Jonathan Hogan is superb playing Mr. Rice. This is one of his finest achievements. Ciarán O’Reilly is also excellent as Frank. Friel also makes him a vehicle for the injection of humor, and O’Reilly makes the most of this. Everything in the play and the production makes the story as dramatically credible as it is emotionally affecting. THE IRISH REPERTORY THEATRE, A PRIME SOURCE OF PLEASURE YEAR AFTER YEAR, SHOULD BE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF THIS ACHIEVEMENT.” – Wolf Entertainment Guide
“Molly Sweeney is a fascinating, moving, beautifully detailed and greatly unpredictable journey told through monologues. Director Charlotte Moore has given us AN OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION. Each character is unique in stance, speech and attributes. Each moves economically and realistically only when provoked by thought or emotion. Connecting directly to the audience (no fourth wall here) the three create a story told TO, shared, not simply enacted. Pacing is pitch-perfect. BRIAN FRIEL’S LYRICAL LANGUAGE IS BEAUTIFULLY SERVED.” — WomanAroundTown
“What a joy and pleasure it is to experience Molly Sweeney’s first Off Broadway revival at the Irish Repertory Theatre and be able to say that the lovely text could not have been placed in more capable and attentive hands than those of director Charlotte Moore.” — CurtainUp
“Mr. O’Reilly imbues Frank with an impish flair. You can’t help but liking him despite his lackadaisical lifestyle. His stories (and he is full of them) are humorous and winning lending some lightness to this otherwise somber story. Mr. Hogan has a most difficult part in that he can easily become self pitying which Mr. Hogan does not do – much to his credit. But he is totally selfish in his reasons for agreeing to perform the operations. Geraldine Hughes makes the most of her role and is especially vibrant when reliving the evening before the procedure as she dances the Hornpipe while letting all her fears and frustrations come to the hilt.” — Talk Entertainment