Barbara Figgins charms in the Midwest premiere of this Irish solo play.
The upstairs at Chief O’Neill’s is a cozy little space, all wood paneling and light Celtic overtones. It’s a proper venue for a show like My Brilliant Divorce, which is itself cozy, huggable and charmingly intimate. Written by Irish playwright Geraldine Aron, the one-woman show is a kind of Bridget Jones story for the middle-aged set. As the show begins, actress Barbara Figgins walks up through the aisle toting a large, stuffed dog. The lack of pretense, the goofiness of a grown woman wheeling around a fake dog on wheels, displays a lack of airs that fits the show perfectly.
Figgins plays a woman named Angela, an Irish Londoner whose husband, Max, leaves her on Guy Fawkes Day. Referring to him mostly as “Roundhead” she paints a portrait of a rich, serial-cheater drip—yet one who she, against her better judgement, wants back. In the meantime, there are Lonely Hearts ads and some very funny jokes about short men. There’s an embarrassed trip to buy a vibrator and a crotchety Catholic mother with an odd love for ’80s rock. There’s hypochondria and calls to a suicide hotline, some hilarious and some sad. There’s a potential love interest lurking around the margins. There is a wonderful theatrical depiction of bad sex.
The staging by director Siiri Scott is serviceable, but occasionally the play does feel a bit monotonous. Figgins carries the show, maintaining a quiet inner strength throughout any number of surface indignities. The play ends happily, and it’s a happiness that feels deserved.
Irish Theatre of Chicago at Chief O’Neill’s Pub. By Geraldine Aron. Directed by Siiri Scott. With Barbara Figgins. Running time: 1hr 20mins; no intermission.