The 2024 Irish Rep production of Molly Sweeney
Photograph: Courtesy Carol RoseggMolly Sweeney
  • Theater, Drama
  • Recommended


Molly Sweeney

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

Theater review by Regina Robbins 

Blind since infancy, the title character of Brian Friel’s 1994 drama Molly Sweeney is a self-sufficient, well-liked woman living a quiet life in Northern Ireland. That changes when she meets and marries a man with a passion for self-improvement who wonders if Molly’s sight can be restored. At his insistence, she meets with a renowned eye doctor who advises surgery. The chances of success may be slim, he reasons, but it’s surely worth a shot. After all, what does she have to lose?

Molly Sweeney is the fourth and final play in Irish Rep’s season-long tribute to Friel, who is perhaps best known for his 1990 work Dancing at Lughnasa. Its structure is deceptively simple: The three characters deliver monologues about the same series of events but never interact. Molly (Sarah Street) is positioned between her doctor, Mr. Rice (Rufus Collins), and her husband, Frank (a masterly John Keating), who instinctively dislike each other but find common cause in their mission to give Molly her sight back. Conditioned from childhood to be a people-pleaser, Molly lacks the self-assurance that might allow her to resist these two men, whose desire to bring her into the seeing world is tangled up with their feelings about what they’ve done, or haven’t done, with their own lives.

Director Charlotte Moore has applied a feather-light touch to this production, trusting Friel’s subtle yet multi-layered writing to do most of the work. The result is eminently watchable, if rarely exciting or gripping. As the drama approaches its grim conclusion, however, the production gains momentum, paralleling Molly’s emotional unraveling. It’s a quiet, slow-motion tragedy that ultimately is less about the inability to see than the inability to listen.

Molly Sweeney. Irish Repertory Theatre (Off Broadway). By Brian Friel. Directed by Charlotte Moore. With Rufus Collins, John Keating, Sarah Street. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.

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Molly Sweeney | Photograph: Courtesy Carol Rosegg


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