Long before Frank McCourt was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author — and after his destitute Irish upbringing, which was later immortalized in “Angela’s Ashes” — he was a teacher at Stuyvesant High School on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
It was there, in the early 1980s, that he began to come to grips with his past through storytelling. He and his brother Malachy (also a writer) created the humorous, music-filled “A Couple of Blaguards” and presented it to a group of students, parents and teachers in the school auditorium.
The little two-hander, meant to be a culture lesson for schoolchildren, has since traveled the country, with various actors standing in for the McCourt brothers, and now comes to Keegan Theatre. Company member Colin Smith, who is directing “Blaguards,” says the show remained in the back of his mind after he saw it a dozen years ago. And, given that Keegan specializes in Irish plays, this seemed like just the place to mount a production.
The play consists of a series of vignettes in which Frank and Malachy, embodied by actors Timothy Hayes Lynch and Robert Leembruggen, respectively, recount memorable moments from their youth. They occasionally transform into other characters, from their brassy grandmother and their terrifying priest to a birdbrained local politician. They also intermittently break into song.
“Something I love very much about Irish playwrights and Irish storytelling is that there is a real sort of comedy through the pain,” Smith says. “They’ve had such troubles, and yet they’ve maintained a sense of humor.”