Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Grade: B

By Brian Friel; Directed by Charlotte Moore; Irish Repertory Theatre. (CLOSED)

Not to be confused with the infamous joke of the same name, this revival of Brian Friel's play (first seen on these shores in 1989) concerns a family gather that turns from the joy of an impending wedding to much darker business. Critics for the most part (with the glaring exception of TheaterMania's D+) are taken with Charlotte Moore's production, praising the show's Chekhovian dramaturgy and performance.

NYTimes A
(Wilborn Hampton) First rate... Charlotte Moore has directed a fine cast in a well-paced and low-key staging. John Keating is excellent as Casimir, wide-eyed and loquacious with a bark of a laugh, but unable to answer a direct question. Laura Odeh, Lynn Hawley and Orlagh Cassidy deliver solid performances as the three daughters, and Ciaran O’Reilly is especially good as Eamon, the local boy who loved one sister but married another. Sean Gormley adds a nice turn as Willie Diver. A
(Mitchell Conway) In Irish Repertory Theatre's revival of Brian Friel's Aristocrats, a marvelously skilled cast of actors portray the life of an Irish Roman Catholic family reuniting at their home in Ballybeg Hall, in County Donegal, Ireland. This is a moving work, reminiscent of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard in many ways, yet featuring its own gamut of complicated and distinctive characters... deftly directed by Charlotte Moore; intelligently peppering tragic moments with comedic sensibilities, and creating dynamic shifts of energy. There is a stunning set by James Morgan. Although the frame of the set is chopped-up sepia-toned pictures of the estate, there remains a gratifyingly naturalistic feel to the environment generally.

NY Daily News A-
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Director Charlotte Moore's top-flight ensemble makes this Irish Rep revival very satisfying,

Variety A-
(Marilyn Stasio) Brian Friel's achingly beautiful 1979 play about the disintegration of Ireland's gentry, "Aristocrats," is so Chekhovian, you keep expecting his distinguished family to put down the whiskey bottle and start swigging tea from a samovar. In the Irish Rep's meticulous revival, helmer (and company a.d.) Charlotte Moore assembles a dream cast to play the members of this diminished clan, gathered here at the bedside of their dying patriarch to wring their hands over their proud lost heritage and to illustrate Friel's belief in the healing power of storytelling to take a family, a village, a nation through troubled times.

The Observer B+
(John Helipern) [a] loving revival of Brian Friel’s 1979 Aristocrats at the invaluable Irish Repertory Theatre. The famously Chekhovian play about identity and loss is concerned with how we’re all the authors and actors of our own fictions: Telling stories helps us deal with the hurt that life brings us

CurtainUp B+
(Elyse Sommer) As staged by the Irish Rep's artistic director Charlotte Moore, Tom's visit with the O'Donnells is given exactly the exactly right intimacy it calls for. And, with Anton Chekhov's plays showing up on stages all over New York... it's easy to see why Aristocrats is known as Friel's most Chekhovian work.

NYPost B+
(Frank Scheck) Some patience is required to appreciate the low-key plotting and often rambling dialogue. But Friel's gift for language is obvious here, especially in the fanciful anecdotes about the family home once being visited by the likes of O'Casey and Yeats. Director Charlotte Moore makes good use of the Rep's limited playing area. She has also elicited fine work from the ensemble - particularly Keating, who lends a compelling air of eccentricity to the loquacious Casimir.

TalkinBroadway B+
(Matthew Murray) Charlotte Moore’s production of Friel’s play is a breezy and laid-back one, drawing few (if any) distinctions between the comedy and drama of these people’s lives. It also presents the very simple story as something of a corporeal ghost yarn, with actors materializing as if from the walls of James Morgan’s fading-oil-painting set, and their offstage voices or piano playing providing the crucial texture of a close-knit group of loving discontents. You get the sense that this family is just what it appears to be: dissolving, but trying to solidify itself with its last gasps.

The New Yorker B
Brian Friel’s play was more relevant forty years ago, when the walls were still coming down, but today this revival is a very well acted museum piece.

TimeOut New York B-
(Adam Feldman) The writing is wonderfully observant and sympathetic, but in Charlotte Moore’s workmanlike production, it comes across without great elegance or energy. If you can fortify yourself in advance, however—a stiff mug of Irish coffee might do the trick—there is much to admire in Friel’s account of the fall of a family’s fortune.

Backstage B-
(Andy Probst) Admirable if uneven... Aristocrats has the potential to inspire laughter and maybe even a tear, but in Moore's hurried staging only the former is consistently achieved. Although whenever CiarĂ¡n O'Reilly — who gives a standout performance as Alice's husband, Eamon, a man not to the manner (manor?) born — takes center stage, the emotional and intellectual appeal of Aristocrats is abundantly apparent.

Bloomberg C+
(John Simon) With its cramped, L-shaped auditorium, tiny stage lacking technical resources and modest finances, the Irish Repertory Theatre is in no position to do justice to Brian Friel’s Aristocrats...Two performances do stand out. John Keating turns the music- loving, magisterially lying Casimir into a mesmerizing figure of dilapidated grandeur, laughing as he stares down a hostile world. Equally fine is Lynn Hawley as the beleaguered but heroic Judith.

TheaterMania D+
(Patrick Lee) Due to its unimaginative direction and uneven performances, The Irish Repertory Theatre's revival of Brian Friel's rich, layered Chekhovian drama Aristocrats is rarely up to the task of the material.

NYT A 13; NYTH A 13; V A- 12; DN A- 12; TO B+ 11; NYP B+ 11; CU B+ 11; TB B+ 11; TNY B 10; BS B- 9 ; TONY B- 9; BB C+ 8; TM D+ 5; TOTAL = 135/13 = 10.38 = B

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