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BogBoy

nytheatre.com review by Di Jayawickrema
September 7, 2011

In Ireland, the many civilians who were quietly abducted and murdered in the 1970s' conflicts are known as "the disappeared."  BogBoy, in its U.S. premiere as part of the 1st Irish Festival 2011, is the stunning tale of a long-lost boy, a Dublin heroin addict, and a rural recluse who illuminate the oft-ignored truth that there is more than one way to become "disappeared" in the dark, ignored corners of society.

Award-winning playwright Deirdre Kinahan is a symphonist of wondrous skill here, bringing sudden swells of emotion to the forefront of an otherwise restrained composition to searing effect. BogBoy is compelling on all levels; it is as human as it is political, funny as it is tragic, extraordinary as it is about the ordinary. The narrative is structurally complex, effectively beginning at the end of the story, with strung-out vagrant Brigit, played by Sorcha Fox, recounting the death of the missing boy as well as her uneasy friendship with a recently deceased farmer, Hughie, played by Steve Blount. Kinahan plants a seed of dramatic tension in the opening scene that grows so steadily throughout the play that it doesn't matter that you already know two characters end up dead and the other, ruined. You only want to see the mysteries of these relationships unraveled.

Fox and Blount are a symphony unto themselves, fragility and humor playing just below the surface of their dialogue as Brigit's harsh loquacity cuts through Hughie's slow, gentle speech. Blount is especially wonderful here, reminding you of a magnificent oak tree, silent and steady, and you rejoice to see his kindly influence on the hardened recovering addict as she scrabbles to regain her life in the idyllic boglands of Meath. The revelation of this benign man's violent past, which hurls Brigit back to the city and to drugs, breaks like a storm on this serene landscape.

No less artful than the writing and performances is Clara Bagnall's haunting design, where the muted greys and browns of the country are projected on semi-transparent screens through a thin fog. The characters move through this space like shadows, never making eye contact with each other in a strange and inspired choice by director Jo Mangan, creating a subtly unsettling emotional distance that reminds you this is an unquiet tale of the past. The sound and lighting are unobtrusive in a brilliant fashion, building upon Bagnall's ambience, only to shatter the mood when required with sudden flashes of sound and color.

In short, BogBoy is a play in which all elements act in such perfect harmony that I have never seen a play about the lost that is more deserving of being found.