“The past is where I love (to be)”. But what happens when we live in the past and fail to acknowledge the present? The Cell’s darkly delicious play, CrackSkull Row examines this phenomenon in its current production, Presented in 90 minutes, this play blurs the lines between reality and fantasy.
Set in Dublin, Ireland this tale follows Dolly and her son Rasher. Living in poverty, Dolly sells her body to make what little money they have. Dolly is being abused by her lover Basher. One night Basher comes home in a formidable rage and Dolly is severely beaten. To save his mother, Rasher kills the father but is caught and sent to prison. Simple right? Wrong. There are many complexities to the relationships between these three members, especially an incestual relationship between Rasher and his mother. As I stated earlier lines between past and present, fantasy and reality become so intermingled that it is hard to know what is actually occurring in the here and now,
But the confusion works in an odd way. Is Dolly going crazy? Or are her inner demons coming back to confront her? Or both? The through-line of the basic plot anchors the audience so we cn still follow the play. As we get thrown into the chaos, it is clear what it must be like to live in Dolly’s head. Terry Donnelly does a fantastic job as the old and feeble Dolly. Her lunacy and possible dealings with the underworld are well played. Donnelly builds a complex character that intrigues and we can witness her demise. John Charles Mclaughlin does a fine job playing the son Rasher. It is easy to judge incest, but harder when you see a human boy earnestly in love. Mclaughlin does this well and to this credit,we feel passionately for him. There is one scene in particular between Donnelly and Mclaughlin that is like a sampler platter from a restaurant. The two fine actors cover a broad spectrum of emotion and, even when it veers into the supernatural we never stop engaging with them. The other two actors do a good job rounding out the strong ensemble. Gina Costigan and Colin Lane are true craftsmen and can pack a punch when they need to.
Now, plays with accents can be tricky. How does one be authentic to the text and still intelligible? The cast does pretty well walking this line, although there were times when they can’t be understood. But thankfully, theses are only brief moments and we hear most of the story. Director, Kira Simring understands the play well and explores the subtleties of the story skillfully. If you want to be entertained and shut your bran off, don’t go see this play. But if you want thought-provoking theater (on the darker side) than you should go check this piece out!
CrackSkull Row plays now through September 25th. Workshop Theater 312 W 36th St, http://www.thecelltheatre.org