A loud, profane, but ultimately touching look at a down-and-out Irish family.
NY Theater Review By Joel Benjamin
The Last Days of Cleopatra begins with an almost unbearable cacophony of three loud, profane, disgruntled monologues aimed directly at the audience. When the volume lowers and ears adjust to the thick Irish accents, it becomes clear that the three characters are a family like any other family going through terrible times: Jackey (Michael Mellamphy), brother to Natalie (played by the playwright, Laoisa Sexton) and their father, Harry (Kenneth Ryan). They are mourning the illness, then death of Tessa (mother to the siblings and wife of Harry) while carrying on their dreary lives in a suburb of a Dublin in “its never-ending recession.”
Although it takes a while to warm up to these very flawed people, the wait is worth it. Ms. Sexton understands these people from the inside out. As abrasive and self-deluded as they are, their pain and their everyday struggles resonate, filling the intimate Urban Stages theater with emotions that come fast and thick, hidden beneath the sarcasm, posturing and self-delusions.
Natalie, voluptuously beautiful, has to fend off local lechers, do embarrassing odd jobs to make ends meet and still take care of Tessa. Pudgy Jackey, a closeted gay man, runs a store, makes lots of sarcastic comments (including nasty hash-tags) and constantly worries about his weight. Harry, wiry and craggy-faced, is an alcoholic, nursing memories of a singing career. He continually boasts of his prowess with the ladies—a pastime that has alienated him from his family. This boast is tested quite definitively towards the end of Last Days when a local middle aged rich lady pursues him into the bedroom only to find that he is not the lothario he claims to be.
Running themes include hatred for the Irish pension system and the government in general, and the seeming hopelessness of their situation. For each character, temporary relief comes in addictive behavior—promiscuity, alcohol and living in the past. The climax of Last Days is the funeral of Tessa which finally brings the family together in surprising ways.
The three leading actors are letter perfect and totally believable to the point of alienating the audience at times with their intensity. Kevin Marron plays three characters including one of the lewd men in Natalie’s life and the aging seductress, Maureen. His zest for all three is wonderful.
The bare-bones set (Ateam LLC) and moody lighting (Michael O’Connor) team up to turn the tiny stage into Dublin. Christi Mueller Caspe’s dated choreography creates the caught-in-amber dislocation of the time and place while Patricia Mustard’s costumes splendidly capture the inner and outer lives of these people, most particularly in the brilliant last moments of the play.
Tim Ruddy directed with a feel for the rhythm and boisterousness of the story.
Photo Credit: Trevor Murphy / TrevorMurphy.tv
The Last Days of Cleopatra by Laoisa Sexton
August 20th – September 7th, 2014
259 West 30th St. (between 7th & 8th Aves.)
New York, NY
Running Time: 100 minutes