If you're familiar with Deevy, the world of Katie Roche will be familiar. A quaint Irish village, populated with quirky, charming characters, most of whom are content exactly where they are. Except one.
In this play, that blessing, and curse, belongs to Katie, a blossoming young woman convinced of her eventual greatness, in spite of being dealt a pretty terrible hand. Shortly after her birth, Katie's mother died, leaving the child to be raised by Amelia Gregg, a kind woman of few dreams. Supporting the two from his work in Dublin is Amelia's brother Stanislaus, a stiff, highly-educated architect. Amelia and Stan mean well, but smother Katie, forcing her to stay in and keep house while her peers do what kids that age do: drink, dance, and make out. In spite of all the oversight however, Katie has found some time to get very, very close to local boy Michael Maguire.
As the play opens, Stan has returned from the city, with plans on making good on his vision of turning Katie into a refined lady by taking her as his wife. That Stan has, up to now, been Katie's surrogate father, makes this offer more than weird. That Katie is sexually attracted only to Michael, but knows her dreams of finding more in life can only come through Stan, light the fuse that will burn the rest of the play.
Give The Mint extra credit: Katie Roche is not an easy play. While not strictly a drama, it also isn't terribly funny. There's also a lot of uncertainty regarding what Katie wants. This is partly due to the title character's very complex, confused emotional life. Even still, the plot seems unsure, making some of Katie's drastic actions, along with a few other dramatic peaks, confusing and unearned. That it's Teresa Deevy however, means there are still brilliant moments. A scene in Act 3 between Amelia and a suitor shines with the organic mix of deep human emotion and comedy fans of the writer expect. Though overall I enjoyed the play, I left wishing the entire work showed the expert skill of this scene.
As Katie, Wrenn Schmidt is charming, while also giving us the burning, confused internal life of her character. As Amelia, Margaret Daly wonderfully displays the humor of the role, while never losing the quiet pain felt by a woman who has spent a lifetime shutting out her own desires. And though only on stage for a brief scene, I thoroughly enjoyed John O'Creagh, who brings needed life to the end of the play. As Stan, Patrick Fitzgerald is less successful, especially in regards to how much focus he places on the rigidity of the character. While appropriate, his pacing and delivery as the awkward Stan slows down the play.
Beginning the Deevy project with the masterful Wife to James Whelan, and not Katie Roche, was a smart choice by The Mint. The immense talent of Teresa Deevy doesn't shine brightest in this work. But there's still plenty to enjoy in Katie Roche, including several fine performances, clean direction by Jonathan Banks, and a lead character whose internal struggles still have me fixated. So go see it. No matter what you think of the play, The Mint has done the theatre world a giant favor by bringing to light the voice of Teresa Deevy. For that, forking over the price of a ticket is the least we can do. And if you need further convincing, there's whiskey served at intermission. Both of them.
Well done, Jonathan Banks and The Mint. And thanks.