Theatre Banshee is known for its Irish plays, but this season producers are trying something new: staging two Irish plays performed simultaneously so the audience can see one play in the afternoon, take a break, and see the other at night.
The first play, “War,” is a feisty comedy by celebrated Irish novelist Roddy Doyle who brings the working-class Dublin neighborhood of Barrytown to the stage. Doyle is best known for his novel and the subsequent film, “The Commitments,” and his Booker Award-winning novel “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha”.
The other play is John B. Keane’s drama “The Field.” Locals gather in a small country pub to see who will end up owning the field Maggie Butler is selling. In rural Kerry, men will kill for land.
The two plays offer contrasting versions of the Irish pub experience and its role in urban and rural culture, said Sean Branney, co-producer and director of both plays. “The Field” is a country drama set in an Irish pub, and “War” is an urban comedy set in a completely different Irish pub, he said.
In “War,” George, the lead character, is a loud, a hard-drinking Irish everyman. He joins the gang at the local pub for the monthly Monday Quiz Night, but things get way out of control.
“‘War’ is a fun, lively, rowdy experience, and I think the audience will feel very much a part of the quiz show that is unfolding around them,” Branney said.
But “The Field” is a more traditional play where the audience watches events unfold. There isn’t the same feeling as being a participant in the unfolding story, like with “War,” he said.
“I think the plays will challenge audiences and how they think of Ireland,” Branney said. “‘War’ takes us into the gritty, citified, working-class Dublin, which is not the Ireland of postcards or soap commercials. It’s ironic that the tough-and-tumble, urban world of ‘War’ is where the comedy is, but in the picturesque countryside of ‘The Field’ is where the intense drama unfolds.”
Tim Cummings, plays George in “War.”
“This is our first time working with Tim, but he is very well-suited to the comic sensibilities of the playwright and novelist Roddy Doyle who wrote ‘War,’” Branney said.
The interesting thing for Cummings is the difference between the character the audience sees in the pub — he plays dirty even when the prize is just a tea kettle — and the character at his home with his wife and four children, Cummings said.
“Based on the relationship with his wife and the tempestuousness of their relationship, you start to wonder is the war at home or at the pub?” Cummings said.
What: The Pub Plays produced by Theatre Banshee
When: Preview performances are Oct. 20 and 21 for $7; the play opens Oct. 22 and runs through Dec. 12. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday; 3:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
Tickets: $18; $16 student and senior tickets and tickets for groups of six or more are $13 each.
Contact: (818) 846-5323 or visit theatrebanshee.org