The implosion of the Irish-American family after a tragic loss is grist for theater, and Larry Kirwan has refined that material in "The Heart Has a Mind of Its Own," playing in rotating repertory until September 30th at the Boomerang Theatre Company, Center Stage, 48 West 21 St, 4th floor.
Playwright Larry Kirwan; Photo courtesy of Black 47
The drama is driven by the death on 9/11 of New York Police Department Lt. Brian Murphy in the World Trade Center tragedy. Since then, his wife, Rose, has lived alone. She and the play's three other characters deal with their grief in different ways -- alcohol abuse, drugs, religion. Brian's brother Kevin, a member of the Fire Department of New York, and his parents, Aggie (a retired schoolteacher), and Jim (retired from the NYPD), make up the rest of the cast, but none of them has recovered from the events of the day -- and Kirwan has presented us with a finely nuanced portrait of grieving. The action switches between the Murphys' home in Rockaway Beach and Rose's home in Belle Harbor, both working-class, and once heavily Irish, enclaves by the Atlantic Ocean.
Jim and Aggie, played superbly by Doc Dougherty and Connie Barron, have been married for 35 years. Kevin, played by Kevin Collins, is a firefighter who somehow escaped the tragedy, which took the lives of 343 members of the FDNY in its immediate aftermath; we are not told if Kevin was even on the force then. Aurora Nessly does a superb job bringing Rose to life; she has intense scenes with her father-in-law that reveal some of the family’s hidden secrets, hers and Jim’s, and also tell us about Brian, who, though unseen, becomes a fifth character in the play. Together, they present a dysfunctional Irish-American family who cannot accept the fact that their dead hero was not as heroic as he appeared to be .
Connie Barron portrays role of the grieving mother with accuracy; she takes comfort in religion, but it becomes almost an addiction, reminiscent of Mary Tyrone, the mother in Eugene O’Neill’s 1912 “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Mary Tyrone, modeled on O’Neill’s own mother, who lost a son, is a morphine addict who lives in the past, reminiscing about her days in the convent. Connie, as Aggie, tosses out her pills; she does volunteer work in her church, and that becomes almost an addiction.
Larry Kirwan is best known as the frontman of the Irish American punk rock band Black 47; he has written a memoir(Green Suede Shoes), a novel(Liverpool Fantasy), and a ton of song lyrics, as well as plays(Mad Angels: The Plays of Larry Kirwan) was published in 1994. He told us the idea for this play came to him in a dream and he didn't want to write it at the time; it's based in Rockaway because the Wexford-born author's brother lives there.
You have only five more chances to see this playas it closes on Sunday; don't miss out on it.
Culture Editor, WGT
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