THEATER REVIEW: At Inis Nua, Dublin by Lamplight Sparkles

15002490_10207789839605535_2506846800085203353_o

Joey Teti, Jacob Kemp, Marlyn Logue, Rachel Brodeur, Mike Dees, and Drew Sipos in Dublin by Lamplight at Inis Nua. (Photo by Katie Reing)

A few years ago, Inis Nua’s production of Dublin by Lamplight helped put this Philadelphia company on the map; it later traveled to New York.  If you missed those engagements (and I did, too), book tickets immediately to this revival.  You will see no more delightful show, nor a better lesson in stagecraft, this season.

I could try to summarize — say something about how Dublin by Lamplight is a metatheatrical parody of 19th Century melodrama, set amidst the creation of the Irish National Theater — but it wouldn’t begin to convey its sly, complex pleasures.

For starters, Dublin by Lamplight is as much a music hall piece as a play.  Cast member John Lionarons, who composed the evocative score which riffs cleverly on Victorian parlor ballads, plays the piano throughout, and there are several songs.  There’s a plot, too — or five, or ten, full of winking humor, but also heart.  Try to imagine a mash-up of Sweeney ToddThe Plough and the Stars, and Noises Off, and you’ll have some idea of the tone.

What might be most striking is the performative style. Spectacular theatrical make-up (designed by Maggie Baker, who also did the marvelous costumes) sets the tone for a piece that also draws in a kind of Brechtian (or at least, Harold Prince-ian) level of bravura delivery.

As you might imagine from the above, Dublin by Lamplight is, to put it mildly, a challenge for actors.  It seems audacious, even fool-hardy, that director Tom Reing (reviving the show he directed in 2011) joins forces here with the Mandell Project at Drexel University.  Two of the actors — Michael Dees and Rachel Brodeur — are professionals; the rest are students. The result is a rousing success.

Dees and Brodeur project a sense of stage authority; he in particular is astonishingly accomplished in his droll personae, changing characters with immense panache (every actor plays multiple roles).  She’s excellent, too — equal parts flirt and fishwife.

3-img_0748

Rachel Brodeur and Mike Dees in Dublin by Lamplight at Inis Nua. (Photo by Katie Reing)

And the four students more than hold their own, each bringing something special.  Drew Sipos is loveably forlorn; Marlyn Logue is breathily girlish; Jacob Kemp finds the emotional center of the most troubled character; and graceful, rubber-limbed Joey Teti is the most virtuosic performer of all.  Dublin by Lamplight is also handsomely designed and produced.

When everything comes together at this level, it’s a real tribute to the director. I’ve admired Tom Reing’s work for years, and this finds him at the top of his game.  We Philadelphians are so fortunate to have him — and Inis Nua — in our community.


Dublin by Lamplight plays through November 20. For more information, visit the Inis Nua Theatre website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 67 other followers

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 67 other followers

%d bloggers like this: