[In Keegan’s An Irish Carol,] the Irish pub becomes purgatory and confessional, a place both of escape and a place one can call home. It’s a “carol” true enough, but one for 21st century adults.
An Irish Carol was written by company member Matthew J. Keenan (who also designed a most authentic pub as set) and was first produced by Keegan Theatre in December 2011. You can tell Keenan not only has come across the pond and brought the Irish gift of the gab, but he has written for this theatre family, whose members have delivered it for him and each other for the last eight years. The actors all have honed the music of this fine work like a fine troupe of chamber musicians.
A few of the actors have been switched out or around, but the show remains remains tight, and it’s delicious to watch the details played out in the familiarity of a true ensemble company at work. Director Mark A. Rhea, who also plays Jim, allows it to unfold slowly, something rare in the theater these days. It’s as if we are indeed in the same pub, spending an evening leisurely with friends.
The play moves through challenges and confrontations, confessions and revelations, and we get to know these characters well. But they never succumb to sentimentality. This is Ireland for real, and laced through the play is the story of an embattled people, who have gone through tough times and are facing them again, but whose resilience comes from their friendships (despite “feck all”) and rich tradition of sharing stories.