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A CurtainUp Review
Leper + Chip
Two star-crossed lovers who knew each other but a day.— Leper quoting Shakespeare
Katie Stahl & Liam Mulshine (photo credit Inis Nua Theatre Company)
Leper (boy) and Chip (girl) do not meet cute. Leper (Liam Mulshine) is doing a stint as a bouncer at a private pub party in Dublin. Chip (Katie Stahl), along with a hell-raiser girlfriend, crashes the party and rips it up, injuring someone. There's no obvious reason for the young women's attack. Evidently it was just for kicks. Leper wants retaliation, and he and his friends hunt for Chip and her accomplice. At one point Leper notes that a guy "stumbles toward us like an epileptic at a disco." Eventually Leper sights Chip and chases her through town.

Tom Reing, Inis Nua's artistic director and founder, keeps things nimble and perilous. The duo, cynical, rough and gutter-mouthed, are also likeable and you root for them to get together and come out of this ok. The actors who play Leper and Chip also play their fathers, friends, betrayers, murderers, hook-ups, and anyone else. With a combination of acting it out and conjuring through narration the play rounds things out, alternating between the two actors, memory, and current dangers.

The audience hugs the stage on four sides. Although Meghan Jones's set of a pedestrian road crossing has no immediate obvious relevance to the play, it is appropriately spare. Its strength lies in its capacity to disappear, allowing scenarios in different locales, past and present, internal and exterior. Stunning sound and light coordinate to create sharp dramatic moments.

Written by Lee Coffey, this play premiered at a small theater above a pub, the Theatre Upstairs in Dublin, and went on to the Edinburgh Fringe. Inis Nua presents the American Premiere. The strong, convincing accents seem to come straight from the meaner streets of Dublin, and the actors certainly have it down (Kudos to dialect coach, Leonard Kelly). However, this brings up a question: Although my companion and I got the picture, we often had difficulty understanding the fast and sometimes impenetrable language. For an American debut, where all may not appreciate the finer points of a specific Irish accent, maybe you'd want to go a little easier on the patois? Is getting a precise accent down more important than getting the message across?

While everyone around them continues to brawl, and both are separately involved in brutal scenes, Leper and Chip fight on, have sex, fall in love, and begin to share recitations. Liam Mulshine and Katie Stahl emerge as capable and confident lead actors in a cheeky play where love kindles amid danger, violence and murder.

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Leper + Chip by Lee Coffey
Directed by Tom Reing
Cast: Liam Mulshine, Katie Stahl
Scenic Design: Meghan Jones
Lighting Design: Shon Causer
Costume Design: Rebecca Kanach
Sound Design: Zachary McKenna
Dialect Coach: Leonard Kelly
Feb 15 – March 5, 2017
1 hour and 5 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 02/19/2017 performance at Inis Nua Theatre Company, Louis Bluver Theater at The Drake (203 South Hicks Street)

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