Transported to Donegal by way of the Alumnae Theatre

Off I went to see The Toronto Irish Players  latest offering of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa. A Memory play set in 1936 in the Donegal home of the Mundy sisters told from the point of view of Michael Evans, the narrator. He recounts the summer in his aunts’ cottage when he was seven years old, as they struggle with life, love, changing times, and a damn bloody wireless!

DancingAtLaughnasa_FNLOpening with narrator Michael (Enda Reilly), who was raised by his single mother, and youngest of the four Mundy sisters Christina (Lauren McGinty). The eldest sibling and local school teacher, Kate (Erin Jones) has a reputation as ‘The Gander’ in the schoolroom which is seen to extend into the household; Maggie (Rebecca De La Cour) acts as the chief family and family clown who looks after the small family farm; and the quiet Agnes (Donna O’Regan) and simple Rose (Áine Donnelly) earn money by knitting gloves.

The return of their brother Father Jack (Ian McGarrett), sent home from his mission in Uganda by his superiors, with the rumour being that Jack was dismissed for “going native” and abandoning much of his Catholicism during his time there. The arrival which was due to be met by banners and parades causes a shift in the community mind set. Industrialization is catching up with rural Ireland, and factory-made goods are putting Agnes’ and Roses’ work at risk. Sporadic, visits from Michael’s father Gerry (Sean Gilheany), a charming yet unreliable Welsh wanderer turned, ballroom dancer turned gramophone salesman, give the family especially Christina and Michael glimmers of hope for a better life.

There is a sense that the close home life the women have known since childhood is about to be torn apart. The narrator, the adult Michael, tells us this is indeed what happens.

Before the actors take to stage, the beautiful nostalgic set (Chandos Ross) has already told a story of depression era rural Donegal. The costumes (Livia Pravato) are perfectly on point and together with, Karlos Griffith (lighting) and Dan Schaumann (sound), the stage provides a wonderous transportation.

The women give are feisty performances all round, that are both memorable and poignant. I was at times torn on who to focus on, they were all believable in their preformaces, and I found it quite remarkable how they acted along side the younger Michael. I also have to give props to Donna and Áine who are really knitting, i’ll be expecting a pair of gloves any day! The Men in the production captured the audience and and tugged at the heart strings. Together they managed to take me to Donegal, Totally recommend checking out, bring your tissues.

The production runs two hours and forty-five minutes with one intermission.Produced by Geraldine Brown & Maureen Lukie. Directed by David Eden.

Staged Managed by Bridget Jankowski. Set Designed by Chandos Ross. Lighting Design by Karlos Griffith. Sound Designed by Dan Schaumann. Costumes Designed by Livia Pravato.

Dancing at Lughnasa continues on the Alumnae Theatre Mainstage until November 3; advance tickets available online or by calling 416-440-2888. Keep up with The Irish Players on Facebook and Twitter.