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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
The Seedbed

Jesus Christ in a bib, Hannah, she's eighteen years old! She can't just take off to some foreign country to live with some stranger she's known for a few months. She's only just back in our lives. — Thomas
L to R. Michael Louis Serafin-Wells, Gina Costigan (Photo: SuzAnne Barabas)
When it comes to creating a situation that feeds upon itself, explaining it in more ways than is absolutely necessary and with more words than you ever thought existed in a language to make your point, you can't beat the instinctively verbose characters we so often meet in Irish dramatic literature. Specifically, there are the four who do the digging in their own perverse and problematic way in The Seedbed by award-winning playwright Bryan Delaney, former head of the New Playwrights Programme at the Abbey Theatre, Ireland's national theatre. Delaney has come up with a heady brew of familial discord. It's all about what happens when family members can't let sleeping dogs lie and believe the past will always be there to both haunt them.

Eighteen year-old Maggie (Gina Costigan) has returned to her family's home in Ireland after an extended sojourn in Holland. She is accompanied by Mick (Michael Louis Serafin-Wells) who appears to be at least twice her age and who she introduces as her fiance to her parents Thomas (Kevin Hogan) and Hannah (Cathryn Wake). A successful florist by profession, Mick tries hard to be ingratiating and is greeted with reserved cordiality by Maggie. Mick is, however, stunned by Thomas's lack of hospitality or rather unrestrained hostility.

Both Hannah and Thomas are taken aback by Maggie's intention to marry the older man which is made clear and given additional weight and compounding gravitas as the reason for Maggie leaving her home and the reason for her returning begin to surface. Hannah tries to put on a modicum show of support even as we begin to suspect it as a cover-up with the fear that her own marriage may be in peril. Thomas has no intention of allowing things to progress but it is only through a series of scarily manifested rages that he is able to express his feelings, as well as keep his mounting fears of the proposed union from revealing a family secret.

Superbly acted, under the fine direction by Suzanne Barabas (assisted by Adam Fitzgerald), the play is a hotbed of uncomfortable truths, uncovered secrets and unforeseeable consequences, all waiting to surface. Although the astute theater-goer will likely see where things are headed, the increasingly testy confrontations make for engrossing theater.

Delaney's characters are complicated and very compelling in their emotional diversity. The very pretty Costigan is excellent as the over anxious daughter whose reasons for marrying Mick could be as sincere as they are also twisted up in a Freudian knot. Hogan has a field day with the irrational Thomas's contentious behavior. One can see the complaisant but apprehensive Hannah's hidden agenda in Wake's subtle performance. Serafin-Wells comes close to a bravura moment with a motor-mouthed attack on Thomas, an example of Delaney gift for florid speech.

The interior of the family home in Ireland is smartly evoked by designer Jessica Parks. With its mix of predictable and volatile psycho-sexual implications, The Seedbed is a humdinger of a play and a welcome addition to contemporary Irish dramatic literature.

The Seedbed by Bryan Delaney
Directed by Suzanne Barabas
Adam Fitzgerald (Assistant Director)
Cast: Gina Costigan (Hannah), Kevin Hogan (Thomas), Cathryn Wake (Maggie), Michael Louis Serafin-Wells (Mick)
Stage Manager: Jennifer Tardibuono
Scenic Designer: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
  Costume Designer: Patricia E. Doherty
Sound Designer: Merek Royce Press
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ (732) 229-3166 or Tickets: $45.00
Performances: Thursday and Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm; and Sundays at 2 pm.
From 10/15/15 Opened 10/17/15 Ends 11/15/15
 Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on performance 10/30/15
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