THE COLLEEN BAWN
by Dion Boucicault
Director - Violet O'Valle
Lighting and Set Designer - Michael Stephens
Costumes - Kami Rogers and Richard Jenkins
Technical Director - Aubrey Jones
Donal - Julian Gonzales
Hardress Cregan - Hank Baldree
Danny - Joseph Choe
Kyrle Daly - Aaron Plaskonos
Mrs. Cregan - Crystal Rincon
Anne Chute - Emily Matthews
Corrigan - Aaron Vaughan
Myles Na Copaleen - Jeremy Henslee
Father Thomas O'Brien - Sean Matthews
Eily O'Connor - Kaleigh Parker
Nell O'Flaherty - Libby Bogart
Corporal O'Moore - Jason Sikes
Musical Talent - Heirloom (Keith and Lauren Plaskonos)
Reviewed Performance 4/21/2012
Reviewed by Kayla Barrett, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Dion Boucicault's The Colleen Bawn is an old Irish melodrama based on the famous County Clare murder case of 1819. Premiered in 1860, The Colleen Bawn was once a popular Irish play produced in music halls and lyceums around the world. Pantagleize Theatre attempts to breathe new life into the old drama with traditional music by Heirloom and modern adaptations by Director Violet O'Valle.
The play is set in 1845, the time of the famine, in the small village of Garryowen just outside of Limerick City. English landlord Hardress Cregan has fallen on hard times. His mother sees their answer to fortune in her son's marriage to wealthy Anne Chute.
Hardress agrees to marry Anne though he is already secretly married to the colleen bawn (beautiful fair-haired girl) admired by many, Eily O'Connor. The play has many twists and turns courtesy of characters' mistaken identities, secrecy and unfounded assumptions that lead to jealousy, greed and murder. The dramatic formula of The Colleen Bawn resembles classic Shakespeare and is complimented by Irish themes. Not fully a tragedy and not completely a comedy, The Colleen Bawn falls into the traditional melodrama genre.
Pantagleize is perhaps most capable of presenting a traditional piece such as The Colleen Bawn. The tiny theatre troupe is reminiscent of court players performing before a king. Though small, they are full of heart and they dare to dream big. A non-profit organization that runs on donations alone, they don't rely on flashy sets or special effects to tell a story. They present plays in a traditional sense. No special effort is made to create illusions that are so typical for the stage today. The players, both actors and musicians, tell the story with an earnest and honest take on original plays.
Music throughout this production is performed by musical duo Heirloom, featuring Keith and Lauren Plaskonos. The two have a unique sound attributed partly to a lesser-known instrument, the hammer dulcimer. The ancient Persian instrument is often described as an enchanting blend of harp and piano. Heirloom also captures the essence and spirit of Irish folk music with soft, soothing vocals (think Enya minus the new age synthesized backdrops or studio enhancements) and guitar, penny whistle and banjo accompaniments.
The play opens with a song from Donal, a servant represented by Julian Gonzales. While Gonzales' character has limited lines, he grabs the audience with his impressive vocal range in the three songs he sings. Gonzales easily sings with both a strong bass and tenor voice. Hank Baldree plays Hardress who struggles to make his own choices. His mother wants him to marry a rich girl but he secretly desires a beautiful, unsophisticated Irish lass. Baldree portrays a conflicted person who places great importance on appearances. While he wants to follow his heart, his place in society and his need to please his mother gets in his way.
Crystal Rincon plays Mrs. Cregan as motherly and matter-of-fact. She demands the best for her son and may be willing to bargain for it. Aaron Vaughan plays the devious magistrate Corrigan who tries to blackmail Mrs. Cregan for her hand in marriage. Vaughan is both cunning and bold as this character.
Kaleigh Parker plays the title role of Eily O'Connor, the colleen bawn that has every boy's heart including Hardress. She is young, sweet faced and fair-haired as the role requires. Parker portrays a happy young girl as she sings with a soft angelic voice. She showcases her diversity with her intense reactions to rejection and heartache and delivers a few blood-curdling screams. Where Eily's character is unsophisticated, Anne Chute is as sophisticated as they come.
Emily Matthews plays Anne, the wealthy girl that Hardress' mother has her sights on. Matthews portrays Anne just as prim and proper as a woman in a Jane Austen novel. She is young, well-spoken and wide eyed. Anne is a dynamic and sensitive character, at times she is demanding while other times reserved. Matthews is a good fit for this role which has many dimensions.
Aaron Plaskonos plays Kyrle Daly, Hardress' gentle-hearted best friend who is in love with Anne. He patiently waits as Anne struggles to choose between him and Hardress.
Jeremy Henslee plays drifter Myles Na Copaleen who loves Eily O'Connor. Henslee plays a funny, down-on-his-luck Irishman. He is quick with his humorous comebacks but he also evokes sympathy from the audience when they see how truly he loves Eily, who despite his devotion, continues to reject him.
Joseph Choe is Hardress' foster brother, Danny. He is a loyal servant to Hardress who suffers with a limp and a hunched back. Though he and Hardress shared a nurse as children, their socio-economic differences are stark. As with many of the relationships in the play, theirs holds a dark secret. Choe is also multi-dimensional, evoking both laughter and sorrow. He creates a real, sometimes grotesque character that struggles with his conscience, often confusing right and wrong. He is the perfect pawn to carry out a murder but will he go through with the terrible deed?
Libby Bogart as Nell O'Flaherty keeps the audience laughing with the hilarious folk song that she uses to cheer up Eily. Bogart has a beautiful singing voice and is a natural comedienne. In this play she is a fairy godmother of sorts, offering comfort to Eily and Danny. Nell humorously interacts with Sean Matthews as Father Thomas O'Brien. Matthews makes us laugh as the whisky-slugging, pipe-puffing priest. As he prepares some toddy, he demonstrates "lemon--that's love. A squeeze now and again does a boy no harm!" The interaction between Eily, Nell and Father O'Brien is entertaining.
Costume designers Kami Rogers and Richard Jenkins capture the humble poverty-stricken Irish as well as the well-to-do English in this production. They dress Myles Na Copaleen in cap and overalls, made complete with Henslee's unshaved face and bare feet. On the other hand, Anne Chute appears in a full floral hoop dress. Later she wears a two-piece ivory dress accented with maroon cuffs, belt and sailor style knotted collar.
The lighting and set, designed by Michael Stephens, are simple and functional. The setting is the lawn garden of the Hardress Cregan Estate, dressed with floral garlands and an outdoor bench. The cliffs of Devil's Island are hidden behind a blue screen that is later lit up to show players behind it. To the right, a small bed, table and armoire represent the small cottage where Eily, Father O'Brien and Nell spend time together. Green and orange lights are used during a climatic point and add to the mystery and suspense.
Pantagleize's adaptation of The Colleen Bawn is both spooky and smartly funny. Director Violet O'Valle stays true to the author's intent while also captivating a modern audience. The talents are diverse and the experience unique. Heirloom's music captures the audience with their intriguing style while the players put their hearts into this uncommon, yet precious gem.
THE COLLEEN BAWN
Pantagleize Theatre Company
1400 Henderson Street, Bldg # 3, Fort Worth, Texas 76102
Limited run through April 29th
Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $20 Friday and Saturday and $15 on Sunday.
For information go to www.pantatheater.org
To purchase tickets, call 817.472.0032 or email them at email@example.com.