"Dancing at Lughnasa" review

Family life can be difficult, but feeling loved and supported through the tough, confusing and just plain weird times makes it worthwhile.

For Michael Mundy in "Dancing at Lughnasa," growing up in an abstract family full of secrets and quirks, it’s these feelings that make his family what they are: not perfect, but still there for each other.

"Dancing at Lughnasa," SPU’s third mainstage performance this year, gives audiences a glimpse into the life of a struggling family in County Donegal, Ireland.

The play, by Brian Friel and directed by Associate Professor of theatre Andrew Ryder, takes place in the 1930s. The play follows the family through their realizations of lost youth, love and faith as each character struggles to redefine their place as a part of the strong, Irish Mundy family.

The story is told through the eyes of Michael, an only child illegitimately born into a house full of spunky women and tales of Uncle Jack courageously serving as a missionary in Africa.

After Uncle Jack, "sick" with malaria and a tribally religious mindset, returns to the family, the family struggles to keep their status in the village as friends and loved ones turn against them.

Already barely hanging on, the Mundys must make sacrifices, find compromises and seek out the sometimes illogical hope in the strength of family to keep them going.

Overall, the cast performs well on stage. The actors spoke with Irish and Welsh accents throughout the play, all of which were convincing and added a powerful stage presence.

Especially memorable was the leading role of Michael, played by junior James Osborn, which was performed with an almost flawless accent, a pleasant addition to the atmosphere of the scenes.

Another easily memorable character was Maggie, played by sophomore Molly Tellers. The energy of this rambunctious character caused the audience to laugh and empathize with her role as keeper and encourager of the Mundy family.

Uncle Jack, played by sophomore Paul Adolphsen, also portrayed a believable absentminded priest with his tribal dances and awkwardness.

The set, designed by Professor of theatre Don Yanik, portrayed the classic 20th century house with a central set bordered in solid white.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this story was Osborn’s portrayal of young Michael’s presence, or rather, the lack of his presence, throughout the performance.

While Osborn stood outside the white border, his voice as young Michael interacted with the others inside in the same way as if a small boy were playing the part.

The cast convincingly interacted, joked and conversed with the "invisible child" as Osborn stood off center, responding in a typical 7-year-old manner.

Between the cast, the accents and the organization of the play, SPU’s 255th production is a well-acted and overall successful play.

The achievement of last weekend’s shows is anticipated to repeat itself in the continuing performances at 7:30 p.m. on April 30 and May 1 and 2, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on May 2.

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Title: "Dancing at Lughnasa" review | Author: Emily Morehouse | Section: Features | Published Date: 2009-04-29 | Internal ID: 113