In the program notes for Give Me Your Hand, actor and show conceiver Dermot Crowley recalls realizing that the poems of Irish writer Paul Durcan “would lend themselves to performance, or at least to recital.” He and his collaborator, fellow Broadway vet Dearbhla Molloy, may have envisioned performance, but they have settled for recital. Durcan’s 1994 collection was inspired by paintings in London’s National Gallery, and Crowley and Molloy—pinned to music stands flanking a projector screen—are like very entertaining museum guides. They provide the art-historical context of each painting before reading (yes, reading) the literary musings it produced.
The poems themselves are charming and given to surprising flights of fancy, and the sure-handed performers do their best to flesh them out with dramatic flourishes, including funny accents and emphatic gestures. When it comes to drama, though, Give Me Your Hand offers about as much excitement as a stroll through an English garden after tea. Molloy sets the tone at the start with this most treacly of lines, ripped from the pages of children’s television: “Give us your hand, and let’s travel together on Paul Durcan’s magic carpet.” There are worse fates than an hour spent looking at evocative paintings and listening to jaunty verse. On the other hand, you could go to a museum, buy a book and still have the evening free for a real play.—Pamela Newton