None Too Fragile brings the fine art of Irish storytelling to the stage
Three Irish men walk into a bar...No, this is not the beginning of a joke but the opening of an Irish play now on stage at None Too Fragile in Akron, Ohio.
First to enter from a warm but windy night is Brendan (Daniel McElhaney) who ekes out a living as the local mechanic when he is not betting on the ponies or being a regular at the pub. He is followed by Jack (David Peacock) who is the pub owner (publican) who works hard to keep everyone happy, their glasses filled and the fussing and fighting to a minimum. Next wanders in Jim (Brian Pedaci) who is a friend of Brendan with whom he does an occasional odd automotive job when not nursing his elderly mother.
The main topic of conversation this evening is the arrival of a young woman to the area who is staying at an empty cottage that according to local legend is spiritually active. Valerie (Rachel Lee Kolis) is from Dublin and is young and attractive. She is being given a tour of the area by Finbar (Doug Kusak) who has his hands in most of the business goings on in the area.
The vein of conversation deals with why a middle aged married man would be parading a young and supposedly single woman all around the county. Finbar and Valerie arrive at the pub. It turns out to be completely innocent. Valerie is married and Finbar is merely showing off the sights and nothing more.
With the cottage that Valerie has rented having a supernatural history the conversations soon revolve around tales concerning the very popular preoccupation of the Irish, namely folklore featuring ghosts, fairies, leprechauns and mysterious happenings. The four men are quick to point out that the house that Valerie is staying at is smack dab in the middle of a “faerie road” that runs from the top of the hill where an odd circle of trees are found, down the hill, through the house and into the valley where the Weir (a hydroelectric dam) was built years ago supplying electricity to the entire valley. It is believed that the faeries travel the road to go down to the water to bathe.
As the many drinks are poured and consumed and the wind whistles in the background, each man takes a turn spinning a yarn with each one trying to out do the other while warning Valerie that these are just folk tales with no basis of fact. With the four men done with their tales, it is now Valerie’s turn to tell her story.
She talks of her reason for leaving Dublin. It is a story of extreme melancholy and loss. As she shares her tale the men become very quiet, attentive and reflective. As with the other stories, Valerie’s reminiscence ends with a ghostly twist that seriously shakes the men who try to reason it off with science and facts. They soon realize that sometimes there are things that happen that have no earthly explanation.
Brendan then finishes off the evening of stories with a tale of loss and regret concerning a love from his youth and while not a ghostly tale he talks about being haunted by it to this very day.
The acting of this ensemble is absolutely superb. It is a richly complete play with laughter, sadness, longing and mystery. More importantly all of the actors stay in part with extremely accurate Irish accents throughout the proceedings. This is no small feat!
There is a natural give and take portrayed that would only be found by years of shared stories and drinks in a cozy surrounding with close friends you grew up and old with.
The pub itself, designed by Sean Derry is a marvel with numerous paintings, Guinness adverts and photographs of long ago local happenings gracing the walls. The tables are cable spools with galvanized pipes for the legs and body as well as an old church pew for further seating along the right wall. There is an old battered short stool that is obviously Jack’s stool. In the right alcove an old distressed easy chair faces the out of sight peat fire place. Behind the bar is the requisite collection of liquor bottles with four bottles of Jameson Whiskey, three of Torquay Gin along with an assortment of various brands of exotic booze for the out of town tourist who come with the season. Of the two bar taps the Guinness one is not working so the clientele are forced to drink either Harp on tap or Guinness from the bottle. The only thing missing are the numerous nick-knacks that normally fill every inch of wall and shelf space in the old established pubs of Ireland.
Sean Derry also does a fine job in Directing as well with the pacing of this 90 minute play with no intermission kept moving forward. There are knowing pauses combined with the story telling and boisterous arguing when tempers flare. It is a typical night at a local pub. Lighting Design is very well done by Marcus Dana with the lights giving a proper pub atmosphere. Tom Barnes does a top notch job with the Sound Design as nary a word is missed.
If your looking for a delightful “slice of Irish life” play in order to escape the troubles of the world you can do no better than this currently staged production. There is humor, sadness, melancholy, fiestyness, friendship, love and caring much like you would find on the Emerald Isle. Ná tuitfidh an díon os bhur gcionn go brách 'S nach dtitfeadh na cairde atá bailithe thíos ann go brách (May the roof above you never fall in. And may the friends gathered below it never fall out).
“The Weir” is currently on stage at None Too Fragile located at 732 W. Exchange Street, Akron, Ohio through April 2, 2022. for more information and tickets go to https://www.nonetoofragile.com/ or call (330) 962-5547.