Prosperous Dramatic Society present “The Play about The Baby” by Edward Albee

Setting

A version of Eden

Synopsis

The play opens in a version of Eden, with the Boy and Girl, she is pregnant. The Girl gives birth to the baby. Soon, a middle-aged couple, the Man and Woman appear…..Witty, cryptic, part puzzle play, part vaudeville the play is essential Albee, and shows the major American dramatist — now deceased — continuing a career of experimentation that has always been very European in its absurdist embrace and subsequent disregard for naturalism. This funny, harrowing dramatic fable, which features a four-member ensemble, is as explicit and concise a statement of what Mr. Albee believes as he is ever likely to deliver. It is presented in the form of what might be called a cosmic vaudeville, in which two old pros in this old world teach a pair of young adults just how bleak and dangerous the universe can be.

Cast

Man Robert Massey
Woman Amanda Ryan
Boy James Murphy
Girl Ashleigh O’Neill

Crew

Director Lurlene Duggan
Stage Management Siobhan Keogh
Set Design Lurlene Duggan
Lights Ciaran Healy
James Murphy
Jimmy Grace
Sound Claire O’Neill
Set Construction TJ Duggan
Brian Moran
Malcolm Taylor
Peter O’Neill
Cian Moore
Backstage Trish O’Neill

About The Group

Prosperous has a strong tradition of theatre and 2017 is the year they celebrate their centenary with a calendar of events focusing on their history of drama in Kildare. The group first won the 1 Act Open All Ireland finals in 1995 with their production of John MacKenna’s “Faint Voices” directed by Anne Clarke and since re-joining the circuit in 2009, have participated regularly in 1 Act and 3 Act All Ireland finals. Prosperous won the 1 Act All Ireland finals in 2012 with David Mamet’s “Bobby Gould in Hell” and again in 2013 with Neil LaBute’s “Lovely Head” and in 2014 and 2016 qualified with “The Judges House and “Bull” all directed by TJ Duggan. The group are consistent qualifiers for the 3 act All Ireland finals in Athlone, they were runners up in 2011 and 2014 and placed third in 2013. They also held the title of Ulster Champions for two years running, having won the finals with their production of Edward Albee’s “The Goat or who is Sylvia?” in 2013 and in 2014 with “Boeing Boeing”. In 2015, the group decided to take a break from the circuit and had a very successful 10 night run with ‘Alone it Stands’ and directed by Lurlene Duggan. In 2016 our 3-Act play was the epic ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, which placed 3rd in the All Ireland Finals.

Summary of Adjudicator’s Comments

Opening his final adjudication at the festival in Athlone’s Dean Crowe Theatre, Geoff O’Keeffe noted that Edward Albee is a playwright who has produced “seminal” work, with this particular play receiving the Pulitzer prize. It’s a play which features “cruel game playing” and it can be “delightful” and “disturbing”. This work portrays “loss of innocence” as self-awareness is finally reached.

There is “absurdism” and “witty manipulation of language” and there are “vaudeville” and “slapstick” elements to the play. In this “non-linear black comedy”, there are no easy answers or solutions. The presentation is not meant to provide a sense of place or context, as naturalism is disregarded. The play should highlight the naivety of the young couple in contrast to the experience of the older pair.

In terms of the setting in this production, the adjudicator praised the “swathes of cloth billowing”. The set was “in tune with the writing” and he liked the white colours which conveyed innocence. The suspended chair and cot complemented the setting and, overall, it was a “very considered and successful presentation”.

Lighting (overseen by Ciaran Healy, James Murphy & Jimmy Grace) was used “so effectively” to create atmosphere and mood, but the adjudicator had a caveat in that he felt the downstage needed more illumination. At times there were shadows on the actors’ faces and they were slightly underlit, according to the adjudicator.

Sound (managed by Claire O’Neill) was well chosen and at times was almost imperceptible “as it should be”. The costuming helped to establish the characters so well.

Turning to the overall production under the direction of Lurlene Duggan, the adjudicator praised the “beautiful opening image” and the interaction between the characters. There were “many moments that really sang” and the character of ‘Man’ established a “great rapport” with the audience as soon as he arrived on stage. There was “lovely interaction” between him and the audience, with Mr O’Keeffe adding that it’s “a rare thing” to achieve such a connection. His story about not recognising his mother at a party was “so well constructed” but in addition to the “fun” parts, this actor found “darkness” and became “sinister” when required.

The way ‘Woman’ reacted to the young couple running naked behind the stage also came in for high praise. The “active listening” of all the actors was commended; it was an example of how they supported each other. At the end of the first act, it was revealed that ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ were going to take the baby away, with this scene commended for its strong impact. There was so much going on that was “successful”, with this production reaching the necessary highs and lows.

The adjudicator did raise a question about freezing a particular scene as this struck him as “odd”. In addition, he felt the transition between some scenes in Act 1 could have been a “beat or two quicker”. Yet in “such a demanding play”, the director and cast produced “beautiful work in spades”.

Turning to the acting displays, the character of ‘Man’ (played by Robert Massey) was described as ” a chancer” and “a charmer”. The adjudicator said this actor was so “in control”, showed “great physicality” and overall, “this was work of a very high standard”.

Amanda Ryan (as Woman) was “so assured” and showed “such strength in her playing”. She was “commanding but playful” and had “so much impact”.

James Murphy (as ‘Boy’), “the all-American boy” had a “lovely sense of innocence” in what was described as a “centred and committed” performance.

Ashleigh O’Neill (Girl) portrayed innocence and beauty and there was “a lovely quality to this work”, said the adjudicator. The “disintegration” of this character in the final scene was “so marked and so well achieved”.

Overall, the adjudicator said the “beautiful setting” responded so well to the demands of the play and the “committed ensemble” of actors embraced the work. Indeed, on the night Prosperous Dramatic Society “delivered a little bundle of joy”.