Oscar E Moore

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Molly Sweeny by Brian Friel at The Irish Rep – Audio Book version

January 31st, 2011 by Oscar E Moore

Being blind is horrible.  Maybe.  Being given the chance to see is perhaps an opportunity of a lifetime.  But for whom?

In Brian Friel’s fascinating, thought provoking, disturbing, melancholy meditation in two acts of static monologues that are beautifully written and finely acted we have the blind since ten months old Molly Sweeny (Geraldine Hughes), her under employed husband Frank (Ciaran O’Reilly) who is not at a loss for ideas, stories and causes and her down and almost out doctor Mr. Rice (Jonathan Hogan) who is fond of whiskey and trying to regain his confidence and career telling us this tale of a beautiful forty one year old woman who has her eyes operated on so that she will be able to see – so that she will be complete.

Told in the past.  In monologues.  On a set (James Morgan) that includes three windows and three chairs.  The actors never interact.  Although they each bring to life their characters we might as well be listening to them on the radio or to bring us up to date an audio book.

Close your eyes.  Be blind to what’s going on.  Like Molly.  Listen.  The words are beautifully written.  The story quite interesting.  Molly you see is extremely content with her blindness.  She is calm and confident.  She has learned to use all of her other senses to manage.  She has a circle of friends in Ballybeg Ireland.  She is a massage therapist.  Where she meets Frank and weds soon after.  It is he who talks Molly into seeing Mr. Rice – a once famous doctor who can perform the operation to restore her sight.  What can she lose?

Are the two men using Molly to fulfill their own longings?   In monologue after monologue that at times stray from the main story line we learn about the doctor and the abandonment by his wife with a colleague that results in a whiskey sodden depression until Molly shows up, the Iranian goats that Frank raised, his offer of a job in Ethiopia on the eve of the operation and the plight of Molly – never seeing but hearing all the gruesome details in her “learning to see” post operative life.

Mr. O’Reilly imbues Frank with an impish flair.  You can’t help but liking him despite his lackadaisical lifestyle.  His stories (and he is full of them) are humorous and winning lending some lightness to this otherwise somber story.

Mr. Hogan has a most difficult part in that he can easily become self pitying which Mr. Hogan does not do – much to his credit.  But he is totally selfish in his reasons for agreeing to perform the operations.

Geraldine Hughes makes the most of her role and is especially vibrant when reliving the evening before the procedure as she dances the Hornpipe while letting all her fears and frustrations come to the hilt. 

It’s an odd piece.  Written that way.  And there is little that director Charlotte Moore can do but to let the words speak for themselves.

www.irishrep.org    Through March 13th.  Photo:  Carol Rosegg

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