A guilt-wracked man returns to where things spun out of control in this richly acted U.S. premiere.
A haunted man and woman, who know each other intimately despite never having met, have a fraught encounter outside a small-town Irish café. Their heated conversation conjures up two figures they’ve lost in alternating flashbacks: her teenage daughter and his ex-wife. How those two parallel story lines converge is the key to revealing why the man, Conor (Dan Waller), has returned to this place.
We see that Conor was a stranger to this seaside town when he met teenage Annie (Tyler Meredith), who’s smitten by the older man; Conor doesn’t reciprocate, but does employ Annie to help him keep some secrets—a role that ends in her accidental death. Separately, we see the rise and fall of Conor’s marriage to Jen (Carolyn Kruse), and how the differing scales of their ambitions lead Conor to rash action.
What we don’t see enough of is the relationship between Annie and her mother, Susan (Jodi Kingsley), who’s relegated mostly to righteous but reactionary anger at Conor for reopening her wounds. Kinahan, the Irish playwright whose Moment was seen in a moving production at Chicago’s Steep Theatre in 2012, clearly excels at family drama hinging on carefully constructed narratives and exposed scars, and she’s well-served by director Joanie Schultz’s U.S. premiere, which features honest and acute performances all around. These four fine actors are evenly matched; it’s the plotting that’s spun just off balance.
Irish Theatre of Chicago at the Den Theatre. By Deirdre Kinahan. Directed by Joanie Schultz. With Dan Waller, Jodi Kingsley, Tyler Meredith, Carolyn Kruse. Running time: 1hr 15mins; no intermission.