The Empty Space presents “Dancing In Lughnasa”

“Dancing in Lughnasa” Provides A Realistic Look of 1930s Ireland

Charr Davenport, Reporter

The Empty Space Theater opened its production of “Dancing in Lughnasa” on Aug. 24 to a nearly full house. The play, directed by Mendy McMasters, runs until Sep 8 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

“Dancing in Lughnasa,” originally written by Brian Friel, is set in Ireland during 1936. It is told through the eyes of Michael (played by Brian Purcell), a young boy who is oblivious to the drama surrounding his family. The play mostly follows his unmarried mother and four aunts as they deal with financial hardship, relationship issues, religious questioning, a dying brother, a broken radio named Marconi, and Michael’s own unreliable traveling father all around the eve of the Lughnasa Festival.

“Dancing in Lughnasa” opens with Michael recalling when he was a 7-year-old boy and had met his father and his Uncle Jack for the first time. The following scene is of his mother and aunts (known as the Mundy Sisters) doing household chores while discussing their own problems, including that their brother Jack (played by Jared Cantrell) has malaria and is most likely dying.

Extreme tension soon takes hold of the house when Michael’s father Gerry (played by Eric Tolley) returns to try and win back his mother Chris (played by Cristina Goyeneche). We soon learn that his Gerry had given the family a bad name years before. Not long after, Michael’s aunt Kate (played by Sheila McClure) loses her job as a Catholic school teacher due to the Catholic Church hearing that her brother is no longer Catholic, plunging the family into poverty.

The family starts relying more on Michael’s aunts Agnes (played by DeNae’ Iona Brown) and Rose (played by Katelyn Evans), who make mittens and sells them to the village people while Kate, Chris, and Maggie (played by Kamala Boeck) take care of the house, Michael, and Uncle Jack. Unfortunately, a mitten factory opens up, ending their small business venture and destroying the family’s source of income once again.

The play continues this theme of crushing the family’s hopes after things start to get better each time and end with an adult Michael revealing his family’s fates, all somewhat unfortunate.

“Dancing in Lughnasa” may not be appropriate for some viewers, as it has some adult themes and swearing. Tickets are available online on Eventbrite.