On Blueberry Hill
Time Out says
Theater review by Helen Shaw
In Sebastian Barry’s On Blueberry Hill, two prisoners alternate soliloquies, taking turns and barely ever acknowledging each other. Yet seminarian PJ (David Ganly) and tinker’s son Christy (Niall Buggy) are tied together tightly by violence and love: They’re telling stories, and at least some of them belong to the other man. At its best, their monologue duet is purely beautiful; at its worst, it’s still pretty lovely.
In a deep blue prison cell, the men move around their bunk bed and tell us recollections of their childhoods in Ireland, their first loves and the killing that brought them together. PJ’s memories are a little shaky and blurred by guilt, whereas regret has sharpened Christy’s to a self-lacerating edge. The writing is packed with perfect metaphors: an orange drink held to a boy’s cheek “as cold as your nose in winter,” a woman collapsing to the ground and “folding like a headscarf.” Ganly describes a loved one as having a “signaling power,” and at times the little Theater B at 59E59 pulsates with language so intense you can feel the sonic wave breaking on your chest.
If the contrivances and plot twists of the play’s second half bother you, there are two incredible performances to fall back on: Ganly and Buggy, both acting paragons, are completely at ease with Barry’s dense, novelistic text. The Dublin-based Fishamble company is only rarely in New York, and when they are, you’ve got to go. On whatever hill they’re on, you'll find a thrill.
59E59 Theater (Off Broadway). By Sebastian Barry. Directed by Jim Culleton. With Niall Buggy and David Ganly. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission.