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The Pride of Parnell Street
Told through a series of alternating long monologues, The Pride of Parnell Street is about a couple, Janet (Mary Murray) and Joe Brady (Aidan Kelly), whose downward spiral begins when Ireland lost its bid for the World Cup Italia in 1990. On that occasion Joe beats the "shite" out of his wife, after which she takes their two remaining children (their son, Billy, had been killed in a vehicular accident) and goes to her parents' house.
Shortly after, Joe gets hooked on drugs, is involved in a murder, goes to jail and contracts AIDS. Janet is now a single mother, raising her kids on the mean streets of Dublin. But it's easy to see through their bitter, painful dialogues that neither their love nor their will to live has died.
The Irish may not have invented grief, but they seem to be better than anyone else at describing the devastating "slings and arrows" Shakespeare made famous. But while their characters relate the loss of love and life, and sometimes even hope, they manage to retain the touch of pride that keeps humanity alive.
Barry's tremendous gift for writing prose that sounds like poetry deserves much of the credit for the power The Pride of Parnell Street conveys. But there's no doubt that the success of this production owes much to the brilliant and moving acting of Kelly and Murray.
Kelly, who seldom rises from his bed, center stage, is variously contrite, bitter and resigned. His most powerful moment may be when he bangs his head repeated on his pillow and proclaims how much he still wants to live. Kelly's genius lies in his ability to play a criminal, an addict and a wife abuser, and still remain unflinchingly sympathetic.
Although Murray's role presents less of a challenge, her performance is equally stellar. Janet is a woman who could easily descend into self-pity or maudlin nostalgia. But Murray never lets Janet never loses her puckish resolve or her sense of humor. Most of all she makes Janet's continuing love for her husband believable and understandable.
The Pride of Parnell Street seems to succeed despite itself. Although it does go on just a tad too long, leaving one with the impression it has several endings before it is finally over, the drama remains compelling through long and circuitous dialogues that could be trying for even the best of audiences. This is a feat that shows strikingly what can be done when a writer, director and actors combine their enormous talent and overcome impossible odds in a real triumph.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
In the Heights
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide