What sucks more: being young and in love, or old and in love? If you’re Irish, both! In 1967’s Lovers, Brian Friel follows a pair of couples—one in their teens, one in their forties—as they struggle to breathe against the starched collar of midcentury Celtic morality.
In the first piece, Winners, soon-to-be high-school grads Mag (Justine Salata) and Joe (Cameron Scoggins) are chilling on a hilltop, half studying and half dreaming about the looming future. Young Mag is pregnant out of wedlock, you see, and she and Joe are getting hitched in three weeks’ time. But all is not fine and dandy, judging from the grim narration (by James Riordan and Kati Brazda) that punctuates their flirtations and digressions. An hour and a half in length, Winners is a full meal in and of itself; it’s also draggy, with long, rambling monologues that—while delivered beautifully by the actors—overstay their dramatic welcome.
To return after intermission for another full-length play, Losers, makes the evening feel like a bit of a marathon. Losers is tonally very different from Winners, a slapstick comedy tinged with domestic pathos, in which a middle-aged couple, Andy (Riordan) and Hanna (Brazda), just want their own life and their own bed to screw in—but they’re constantly monitored by Hanna’s pious, bedridden mother (Nora Chester).
Drew Barr’s production for TACT is beautifully rendered by a strong ensemble (particularly Salata as the fiery Mag and Riordan as the resigned Andy), and features a gorgeous, multitiered set by Brett J. Banakis that does a particularly good job of evoking Winners’ windswept promontory. But the material falls short of their talent. I think I might have enjoyed both plays more if I’d seen them separately; together, they’re a too-big bowl of weak Irish stew.—Jenna Scherer