White Horses: An Irish Childhood
nytheatre.com review by Sarah Congress
August 18, 2009
White Horses: An Irish Childhood tells the autobiographical coming-of-age story of writer/performer Owen Dara. Dara's childhood in Ireland did not involve famine, alcoholism, or even terrible poverty. Instead of death he battles his father's depression; in place of typhoid and tuberculosis, he conquers his soul's search for religion. Dara himself points out in the first few moments that if his story were that of a miserable and muddy Irish childhood, he would have titled it "Owen's Ashes."
With charisma and humor, Dara captivates the audience as he reenacts significant events from age five to adulthood. Dara's life starts out quite comfortably in a fancy home in a nice area of Ireland where his father sells pottery to tourists. His greatest pleasure in life is watching his father mold clay on his pottery wheel; these peaceful moments he refers to as "magical." But the pottery business goes bankrupt during the civil unrest of the 1960s, as travelers became afraid to set foot in Ireland. Thus his father slips into a deep depression with the loss of his artistic career, and Dara spends his adolescence searching for and craving those "magical" moments.
The audience watches Dara's raw yet often hilarious journey with school, girls, the controlling Catholic church, and a controlling Catholic mother. He successfully plays several different characters, making each one distinct using his physicality and vocal variety. His energy and good-nature flooded the theatre during his tales so much so that a few audience members actually began talking to him during the performance.
Dara's storytelling is intermixed with several self-composed songs on the guitar. These numbers are heartfelt, but not exceptionally performed, and slow down the play's pace. Dan Toscano and Elizabeth Duck do a good job directing the piece, providing creative blocking for the small space.
White Horses: An Irish Childhood is a moving and sincere play about a boy trying to understand his father's depression, his religion, and himself. Dara's magnetic energy and comedic timing help make his rather sad childhood into a funny, yet universal story about self realization.