By Brian McGrail
Directed by William Mierzejewski
The Imua! Theatre Company
The Currican Theater
154 West 29th Street (971-1074)
Equity showcase (closes Apr. 11)
Review by Sourabh Chatt
Dirty Day, the Imua! Theatre Company's latest showcase, is a semi-autobiographical tale by writer/co-star Brian McGrail dealing with the murder of his own father. The elder McGrail, "Whitey," a member of the rough "Southie" section of Boston, was shot down in 1985 by two unidentified men in the bar he owned in that same region. Unfortunately, whereas Mr. McGrail deserves all the credit for paying such a valiant tribute to his late father, his play falls short of all expectations.
With bagpipes playing in the background, Dirty Day opens as Bobby McGrath (Derek Phillips) is forced to reminisce "what might have happened," standing at the scene of the murder of his father. The atmosphere, with crisp lighting and music, set up for a great dramatic plot; sadly, this play, with no compelling arc, wound up being a combination of bad direction, constant overacting, and obsessive yelling to the point of annoyance.
Briefly, Dirty Day is the story of Bobby McGrath, who, two months from graduating college, is forced to return home to tend the family bar in the rough "Southie" section of Boston after the murder of his father. Before he knows it, Bobby is covering for an old friend who has "accidentally" committed a murder, fencing for the mob, running his dad's tavern, and trying to find the reasons behind his father's death. Ultimately, Bobby is left alone to search for the "truth" while tackling the betrayal and deception around him.
The biggest fault with this production was direction. Head-to-head confrontations, teeth gritted and jaws squared, yelling at the top of the actors' lungs, and dialogue delivered so fast that sometimes entire speeches were indiscernible, were the norm. Everything appeared a bit choreographed, diminishing the "realness" of the story. It seemed that Kevin Anton, who played Bobby's friend Kevin Shelley, was in a serious time crunch to deliver his lines, breezing through his speeches as if he had to get out of the theatre as soon as possible. Mr. McGrail and Mr. Phillips, who showed sporadic brilliance as the sinister Eddy and the vulnerable Bobby, respectively, were also guilty for the overall ineptness of the play. At the end of the night, it was hard not to question whether Mr. McGrail's text really contained the word "fuck" in every other sentence. (Also featuring Jack R. Marks.)
By far, the best aspects of this production were its scenic design and its lighting and sound. Antje Ellermann's design of the set - the interior of a local Irish tavern - was superb, and the perfect counterpoint of Joshua Helman's and Brooke Stanford's music and lighting served the production well. This was especially evident in the opening scene.
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Copyright 1999 Sourabh Chatt