'Way coole!

Coole Lady

Written and directed by Sam McCready
Handcart Ensemble
Theatre 315
315 W. 47th St. (www.smarttix.com; 212/868-4444)
Non-union production (closes Apr. 30)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Coole Lady is a 70-minute history lesson about Lady Gregory, an Irishwoman who greatly influenced the arts in Ireland in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A standard, straightforward narrative, it was a solid, informative production, yet lackluster in delivery.

Charming Irish music by Richard McCready played before the show, setting the mood. As the lights came up, Joan McCready entered the stage ready as Lady Gregory to begin talking about the life of Lady Gregory. What followed was a dialog with the audience about her life, starting with her parents and ending at her deathbed. Throughout this monolog, the audience learned about her fostering of the renowned poet, William Butler Yeats, the creation of the first theatre in Dublin, some sordid love affairs, and her bout with breast cancer.

The play is a fascinating history lesson, but does not evolve into anything other than that. The dialog is fairly dry; the anecdotes feel phlegmatic. There is some humor, but it is sparse; more levity would be appreciated and expected given the brash nature of the character. However, there is a lot learned in only a little over an hour.

Joan McCready's performance was realistic and eccentric. She brought Lady Gregory to life with warmth. Sam McCready's direction kept the show flowing and moving without any unnecessary pauses. His staging made good use of the minimal set.

Thus, Coole Lady was an interesting, if not impassioned, lesson. Those who are intrigued by the subject matter will not be disappointed.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh