Olivia Horton  and David Mitchell

Olivia Horton and David Mitchell


Reviewed by John Weatherford

“I bought a new pair of shoes, especially for you, just like you told me, too.”  For me, this line of dialogue brought to a head the emotional entanglement that transpires when an ill-fitting couple takes a road trip across America. The play, by award-winning playwright Ronan Noone, begins in The Compass Rose, an Irish Pub set in Martha’s Vineyard.  There is a sense that this is autobiographical, as Mr. Noone emigrated from Ireland in 1994, settling in the Vineyard.

Donal, a young Irish illegal immigrant is invited by Tiffany, an affluent young anxiety-ridden elitist, to accompany her as she drives across country from Martha’s Vineyard to San Francisco.  The piece masterfully moves between The Compass Rose and events shared on the road trip ten years before.

Donal, portrayed with great passion by Irish actor David Mitchell, is shocked when Tiffany, played with joyous hope by Olivia Horton, appears in the pub after having left him in Las Vegas ten years before.  A great deal has transpired over the decade.  They are both married, they both have children and they both are holding a thirst for each other that can never be quenched –  a thirst that may be more about what they fancy could have been rather than what is.

The drama is performed in the upstairs bar at Ryan’s Daughter, an Irish Pub on the upper East side of Manhattan (350 East 85th Street at 1st Avenue). The director, David Sullivan, has adapted the staging so the action moves about the patrons/audience effortlessly.  The press release states The Compass Rose has its site-specific NYC bow as part of 1st Irish, the annual festival of Irish theatre supported by the New York-based Origin Theatre Company. It is in its sixth year.

The Compass Rose is a delightful work which explores the complexities of two characters who are seeking an understanding of who they are and what they want.  The road trip flashbacks woven into the present allow the author to clarify for the audience the pain and confusion that lingers in the hearts and minds of these characters.   The production, presented in one act, is fast-paced and seamless as it moves from then to now.  The accomplished actors take the audience on a journey of revelation as they antagonize each other with a charm that often makes for strange bedfellows.

The Compass Rose is produced by Fat Violet Theatre, a play development company that explores new contemporary Irish-American plays in a “bare bones” production style.  The limited engagement through September 29th has a performance schedule of Thursday – Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 7 PM.

This is a delightful experience where you can sip a pint and enjoy the experience as it flows about you.  At only $18 a ticket you can’t go wrong.