Noah And The Tower Flower
nytheatre.com review by Heather J. Violanti
September 7, 2011
Two self-declared “tosspots” (Dublin slang for “losers”) stumble toward a second chance at love in Sean McLoughlin’s bittersweet romance Noah and the Tower Flower, produced by acclaimed Irish company Fishamble. An unflinching look at life in the towers (housing projects) of Dublin’s Ballymun district, the play skillfully walks the line between hope and despair, even if it wrap ups its plot a bit too hastily. It’s a remarkable playwriting debut from McLoughlin, and an apt showcase for talented actors Darren Healy and Mary Murray.
On the surface, Noah recalls another Fishamble production, Pride of Parnell Street by Sebastian Barry (seen at 1st Irish in 2009). Like Parnell, Noah features a couple on the fringes of society, struggling to keep body and soul together as they endure violence, poverty, and each other. While Noah doesn’t achieve Parnell’s searing heartbreak, it displays a disarming sense of humor that makes its pathos all the more startling. Central couple Noah and Natalie have survived the hardest of hard knocks—he’s just got out of prison, she used to be addicted to heroin—but they still find room to celebrate the ridiculous. They woo each other with silly jokes and pop culture addictions: Noah bursts into Robert DeNiro impressions; Natalie boogies to Elton John. But Natalie’s self-doubt and depression, and Noah’s rage and uncertainly, threaten to destroy any chance they have in coming together.
First-time playwright McLaughlin occasionally veers into cliché (Natalie and Noah’s dark pasts are sometimes too tidily familiar), and the final, fraught confrontation between Noah and Natalie is glossed over, but these are minor quibbles in a surprisingly fresh and vibrant script. Director Jim Culleton elicits emotional, honest performances from Darren Healy as Noah (who balances his quirky humor with his neediness) and Mary Murray as Natalie (who finds the fear beneath Natalie’s tough exterior). It’s a fine production of a compelling play.