Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dancing at Lughnasa at the Adobe Theatre

Step dance your way into another time by entering the world of  "Dancing at Lughnasa," currently playing at the Adobe Theatre, and running until April 27.  Taking us to the fictional village of Ballybeg in Ireland, we enter the childhood memories of Michael, recalling what it was like to be raised by five women, and an absentee father, and struggling to understand the grownups' ways while finding himself.

Photo by Daryl Streeter
Jennifer Lloyd-Cary plays Christina, the young mother whose child Michael was born out of wedlock. Michael, played by Paul Hunton and appearing as a grownup, narrates the memory play as his own recollections from the age of 7, and through him we glimpse life at a very economically depressed time. Vacillating between the joy of her lover's unpredictable homecomings and despondency during his long, unexplained absences, Lloyd-Cary brings her character to life with a sense of emotional believability that we can connect with. As Gerry, the absentee father, Jeremy Gwin charms her, giving Christina the impression he has returned for good, only to disappear again (and again). Like Christina, we want to believe in his promises for a better life, even though we know it probably won't happen.


Photo by Daryl Streeter
Joy, like the songs from the Marconi radio in their kitchen, is a sporadic visitor that seldom stays for long, but in true Irish spirit, when the sisters begin to dance, they leave their real worlds behind just long enough to touch that something greater. As the leaders of the family, Kate, the eldest (Lacey Bingham) is rigidly devout, while Maggie (Heather Lovick-Tolley) is more earthy and free spirited. With meager skills to support themselves with, the two middle sisters turn to hand knitting, Agnes (Bridget Dunne) and Rose (Andrea Haskett), only to find their livelihood threatened by new technology, forcing them both to make hard decisions of their own.

Photo by Daryl Streeter
The Ireland of the show is downtrodden, recovering from the loss of many of its young men in the first World War as well as the economic struggles of the Great Depression, but like the women themselves, the joyful spirit of the people cannot be squelched by the difficulties of their times. Just the idea of attending the Festival of Lughnasa, one of the only social outings the women might know in a year, is enough to inspire fits of laughter and squeals of joy -- like so many of their generation, they must learn to live on hope and ideas far more than the reality that confronts them daily. Their lives are a mix of the secular and religious, a concept personified by their brother Jack (William Lang), a priest who stays with his sisters while recuperating from malaria, caught in Africa during his missionary work.

The metaphor of dancing appears throughout the show, and as Michael states, "Dancing is a language that no longer existed, because words no longer mattered." Directed by Leslee Richards, the show wraps you into its tale and makes you consider that time and place already long past, and when the sisters dance, with choreography by Judith Chazin-Bennahum, you almost wish you could join in their fun. Each sister expresses herself a little differently once the music begins to play, and the act of abandoning one's self to ecstatic movement that comes from within gives each of them a little of the release they seek while living under such oppressing circumstances.

To join the dance for yourself, you can buy tickets online at their website, www.adobetheater.org , or call their box office at 505.898.9222.

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