Theater Banshee’s 10th-anniversary production of the play it started out with, Patricia Burke Brogan’s “Eclipsed,” is an affecting drama with deeply felt perfs that serves as a testimonial to the consistently superb quality of this company’s work. Although the setting is a grim institutional laundry room, director Sean Branney deftly uses light, music and motion to represent the vivid dreams of the characters, women whose dreams are all they have left. The all-female cast is terrific, presenting not only the pathos of the situation but also humor and desperate vitality.
“Work is God here,” says Brigit (Josie DiVincenzo), an unwilling prisoner of Ireland’s Magdalene laundries, a Catholic Church-administered system wherein unwed mothers were turned into slaves, held under lock and key for the rest of their lives.
Brigit burns with righteous fury at her predicament and wants to escape to see her child. Mandy (Leslie Baldwin) wants to leave so she can be with her one true love, Elvis Presley. Nellie Nora (Rebecca Marcotte) is more accepting of her fate, going through men’s jackets to smoke the cigarettes they’ve left behind.
Sister Virginia (Lisa Dobbyn) sees the hideous unfairness of these women’s lives but can’t decide whether she should follow her morality or the edicts of her church.
DiVincenzo steals the show with her exhilarating perf, whether she’s goofily mocking the head nun or gleefully envisioning sending men down into hell. She captures Brigit’s core of sizzling rage, and she is the indignant heart of the show.
Baldwin impressively channels the unfortunate Mandy, from her blissful love of the King to an abyss of black depression at the thought that her dream will never come true.
Marcotte is subtle and nuanced as the kind Nellie Nora, and Dobbyn is effective as the young woman torn between her habit and her heart.
Rebecca Wackler, Melissa Jones and Andra Carlson complete the sterling ensemble.
Shaun Meredith’s well-wrought set is a drearily authentic evocation of a basement laundry room with stained walls, hanging pipes and industrial lamps. Mary O’Sullivan’s inventive lighting design morphs in a moment to suit the need, from upbeat fantasy sequences to a fiery vision of Hades.