Jul 9, 2014
01:42 PM
Arts & Entertainment

Original Irish Play Staged in Unique 'Pub' Setting Returns in Danbury

Original Irish Play Staged in Unique 'Pub' Setting Returns in Danbury

The lively sound of Irish jigs and reels and the haunting melodies of traditional Gaelic singing form the powerful sonic backdrop to “Two Nights Near Doolin,” an original play that will be staged by Western Connecticut State University’s theater department this weekend (July 11 to 13) at Ives Concert Park.

Louisa Burns-Bisogno, the playwright responsible for the work, has spun a tale of Ireland, war, heartbreak and betrayal that unfolds like an intricate fiddle tune over the course of one evening at a quiet pub in a small Irish village.

The play tells the tale of two aging sisters who own a bar with their nephew. When two young Americans arrive late one stormy evening, they ask questions that force both sisters to confront their past.

Burns-Bisogno (right), a professor at Western Connecticut, had the idea for the play after spending time in Ireland as a Master’s degree student at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1990. In press materials for the play Burns-Bisogno recalled, “It was the height of ‘The Troubles’ — the bloody civil war in the North. I witnessed several tragic events and many innocents were caught in the crossfire. This folded into a story that I heard about an American who went in search of his own family history.”

In preparation for the production, the play’s director Pam McDaniel (below), a professor of theater arts at Western Connecticut, traveled to the real life Doolin and its surrounding area in Ireland. In an attempt to lend authenticity to the production, McDaniel visited pubs and interviewed patrons, while listening to Irish musicians play. Over the course of her 10-day visit she photographed the scenery on the West Coast of Ireland, including the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Dingle Bay and the Ring of Kerry, all part of the terrain that Burns-Bisogno had in mind when she wrote “Two Nights Near Doolin.” McDaniel also took photos of the interiors of the pubs she visited to help the play’s set designers accurately create the look and feel of a real Irish pub.

McDaniel’s research certainly seems to have paid off. The play was staged last fall by Western Connecticut’s theater department at the University’s Berkshire Theater. That staging, which Connecticut Magazine was lucky enough to attend, was a memorable piece of theater—at times rousing and at times deeply moving. For the production the theater was transformed to look like an Irish bar, and guests sat at tables alongside the performers. Because there was no stage area the action happened all around (and for the record the bar did serve actual beer to patrons with valid IDs). This staging let the setting envelop the audience, adding a level of intimacy to Burns-Bisogno’s excellent script.

That intimate feel will be translated to Ives Concert Park this weekend. Audience members will sit on stage with the performers and the Irish Pub will be all around them. Because of the intimate staging of the production, seating is limited to about 200 people. So those looking to experience a wee bit ‘o the old country this weekend will want to purchase tickets right away.

The play runs Friday through Sunday, July 11 to 13. Tickets are $10 for children and $15 for adults and will be available at the gate and at eventbrite.com. The show starts at 8 p.m. but live music starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information visit ivesconcertpark.com.

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and Google +

Original Irish Play Staged in Unique 'Pub' Setting Returns in Danbury

Reader Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed