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Valley Weekend : THEATER : ‘Neutrality’ a Strong Depiction of Life in World War II Ireland

The premiere of Irish playwright Brendan Dillon’s “Neutrality” washes down like a tasty pint of Guinness stout.

The production dramatizes what must be the least remembered political curiosity of World War II: Ireland’s declaration of neutrality.

Although a British dominion, southern Ireland, still smarting over England’s refusal to give it home rule after World War I, declared neutrality at the start of World War II and subsequently interned U-boat crews, RAF pilots who had been downed and such American forces lucky enough to be rounded up on the bogs and sod of neutral Ireland.

Lucky, that is, because life during wartime--as depicted by the play’s central action on the stage of the American Renegade Theatre--was almost an Irish jig. As directed by David Cox, the tone is quaint in Act I, melodramatic in Act II.

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A cherubic, rotund Irish priest (the well-cast Roger Reinhart) gathers everybody (there are 30 roles) into a family hotel for a Christmas party, laced with Irish song. Events catapult into a crisis spearheaded by estranged former lovers (gripping performances by the playwright’s son, James Dillon, and Alice Champlin).

Ambitiously exploring social and religious issues, the plot seemingly divides into two separate plays, but the acting, the multicultural accents and a solid exploration of the Irish “troubles” are strongly presented.

* “Neutrality,” American Renegade Theatre, 11305 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 7 p.m Sundays. Ends Oct. 8. $12-$15. (818) 763-4430.


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