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A CurtainUp Review
Crackskull Row
Couldn't sleep for the bappitties. His music down the stairs. Thumb to the goatskin. Battering out. Fa-pitty, bappitty goes my head. I'm battering out. — Rasher
Gina Costigan and John Charles McLaughlin (photo by â?¦Carol Rosegg)
It takes a bit of time to figure out if we are in an earthly location or unearthly realm as we peer at the four seriously screwed-up characters in Honor Molloy's spooky play. Are they really living, dead or just reliving their lives?

Crackskull Row takes place on May Eve in the outskirts of Dublin. As the program specifically describes it: "in a shitheap on Crackskull Row, a night when the veil between then and now, the living and the dead, is slim. " That pretty well sums up the living quarters that Daniel Geggatt has designed. Its crumbling walls, unusable sink and toilet, giving new meaning to abject squalor.

This setting doesn't quite prepare you for the flippant wordplay and florid speeches that sound as if they might have more meaning for the ears of leprechauns or other mythical creatures than for the human listener. We are compelled to listen to the lyrical and indeed incomprehensible ranting of the amusingly witch-like old lady Masher (Terry Donnelly) as she thrashes a leafy branch about her poverty row abode. She is presumably waving away spirits and before she settling down on the ratty sofa whose cushions hide her neediest necessities. Masher is a queer one to be sure but her hallucinations have significant power and provide the dramatic, occasionally sordid, revelations and often violent action that ensues.

Soon enough, family members are conjured up to restate bitter grievances and revive mainly horrible and horrifying experiences. The appearance of Masher's daughter Dolly(Gina Costagan), who lands at her mother's feet directly out of the chimney flue, begins a series of interlocking confrontations of the most abusive and aberrant kind.

Dolly's incestuous relationship with her beguiled son Young Rash (John Charles McLaughlin) is depicted from a particularly lurid perspective. Costigan also plays Wee Dolly, whose snarly relationship with her mother helps to define the street slut she becomes in order to earn what little money the family needs to survive. A spooky-looking Colin Lane rounds out the excellent four-member cast as the alcoholic, ne'er-do-well father Basher, but also plays the older Rash.

Donnelly, a familiar face at the Irish Repertory Theatre, is, as ever, terrific as the tormented-by-spirits Masher. Costigan manages to be strangely attractive as the corrupted amoral Dolly. An excellent McLaughlin earns our sympathy as the misguided Rash. A scarily effective Lane deserves no sympathy for his deplorable actions in his dual roles.

A minor problem with the play's structure is that it's difficult to keep track of the characters' secrets and lies as they slip into and out of their own regrettable past and present selves. Yet director Kira Simring has a firm grip on the action and keeps the cast invested in their unlikable characters.

Receptive audiences will finde the weird language that Molloy has created fascinating and find themselves unwittingly drawn into the nightmarish scene. Indeed, the displays of bad behavior conjured up on Crackskull Row may actually succeed in sending a shiver or two down your spine.

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Crackskull Row by Honor Molloy Directed by Kira Simring
Cast: Gina Costigan (Dolly/Wee Dolly), Terry Donnelly (Masher/Morrigan), Colin Lane (Rasher/Basher), John Charles Mclaughlin (Young Rash/ESB Boy)
Set Design: Daniel Geggatt
Costume Design: Siena Zoe Allen
Lighting Design: Gertjan Houben
Original Music & Sound: M. Florian Staab
Property Design: Samantha Keogh
Associate Director: Brian Reager
Associate Set Designer: Caitlyn Murphy
Fight Choreography: Unkle Dave's Fight House
Production Stage Manager: Chris Steckel
Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes no intermission
Irish Repertory Studio Theatre, 136 W. 22nd Street
Performances: Wednesdays at 3pm and 8pm; Thursdays at 7pm; Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm; and Sundays at 3pm.
From 02/03/17 Opened 02/10/17 Ends 03/19/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/08/17

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