The Pride of Parnell Street

A low-life, hardscrabble Dublin marriage receives a heartbreaking dissection in Irish writer Sebastian Barry's tough-going but ultimately moving two-hander "The Pride of Parnell Street," having its U.S. premiere at New Haven's Intl. Festival of Arts & Ideas.

Janet - Mary Murray Joe - Kark Shiels

A low-life, hardscrabble Dublin marriage receives a heartbreaking dissection in Irish writer Sebastian Barry’s tough-going but ultimately moving two-hander “The Pride of Parnell Street,” having its U.S. premiere at New Haven’s Intl. Festival of Arts & Ideas.

After bows in London and Dublin last year, the perfectly pitched Fishamble Theater production — with its original cast, director and design team — is a promising candidate to tour other U.S. markets, despite the dense accents, under-class characters and void of the usual Irish wit and lucky charms. (One could also envision American productions mangling the delicacy and detail of the script, where subtly and nuance are sometimes all that separates the play from bathos.)

Beautifully directed by Jim Culleton and performed by a pair of actors who feel for their characters down to their souls, “Pride” is a sad and sorry tale of Joe (Karl Shiels) and Janet (Mary Murray) living on the dole in urban Dublin in the 1990s. They watch the seemingly positive changes in their once-divided and poor country pass them by as the new Ireland strides toward the dawning millennium and the European Union.

But there’s little to celebrate for this couple, who just lost a child in an accident and are now witnessing their neighborhood change into a culturally diverse thoroughfare where they feel like outsiders.

An inexplicable act of violence shatters the happy marriage and sends the two on their separate journeys: the self-possessed and strong-willed Janet to a new life elsewhere with her surviving two sons; the loving but tough bloke Joe to drugs, crime, prison and illness. Though they’re separated, the pull of their marriage stays with them.

“See, love between a man and a woman — it’s private,” says Janet. “It happens when you never do see it. In rooms.”

In this case, one of those rooms could be a confessional, with the characters presenting a series of back-and-forth monologues that further the narrative as well as the shadings of their characters’ past, present and future lives — examining their actions, interpreting their feelings and exploring their options. The intimacy of their soulful storytelling brings to both a sense of understanding, peace and redemption.

But many details (and words) are lost to American ears. Most frustrating is the lack of motivation or reasoning behind the violent act that unravels the marriage but is never resolved, only feebly suggested. Best known for his play “The Steward of Christendom,” Barry comes up short in that crucial detail. Still, the playwright manages to elegantly weave a sense of place and history into his twin tales without becoming didactic.

The focus here is not on metaphor but on marriage. Murray gives a performance of amazing grace. She’s fidgety at first, then turns resolute before finally achieving a kind of beautiful serenity. The powerful Shiels goes through hell and back as the caring loser who takes ownership of his actions and shows he still deeply loves his family. Such moments call for theatrical absolution.

Popular on Variety

The Pride of Parnell Street

Long Wharf Theater/Stage II, New Haven, Conn.; 200 seats; $25 top

Production: An Intl. Festival of Arts & Ideas presentation of the Fishamble Theater Company production of a play in one act by Sebastian Barry. Directed by Jim Culleton.

Creative: Sets and costumes, Sabine Dargent; lighting, Mark Galione; sound, Denis Clohessy; production stage manager, Jack O'Lohan. Opened, reviewed June 24, 2008. Runs through June 28. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.

Cast: Janet - Mary Murray Joe - Kark Shiels

More Legit

  • The Sound Inside review

    Broadway Review: 'The Sound Inside' Starring Mary-Louise Parker

    Mary-Louise Parker will take your breath away with her deeply felt and sensitively drawn portrait of a tenured Yale professor who treasures great literature, but has made no room in her life for someone to share that love with. The other thesp in this two-hander is Will Hochman, endearing in the supportive role of a [...]

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • The Lightning Thief review musical

    Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

    “It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run. You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy [...]

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content