Performance Review: “Rock Doves”

Rock Doves by Marie Jones
Amaryllis Theater Company
Directed by Mimi Kenney Smith
Starring Christopher Bohan, Susan Giddings, Christopher Imbrosciano, and Michael Toner

10 Words or Less … Social misfits take shelter from the paramilitary violence of Belfast.

StrengthsRock Doves, by the Northern Irish playwright Marie Jones, is a hard-hitting drama about the struggles of life in contemporary Belfast. The play blends comic nuance with the unfortunate reality that the historical sectarian troubles of Northern Ireland have devolved into gang violence and social thuggery. Amaryllis Theater Company tackles this complex social critique with sensitivity, passion and a sense of humor.  This is the company’s first production in their new space, The Playground at the Adrienne, and they truly arrive with a powerful season opener. Dirk Durossette’s clever set design superbly captures the fragmentation of the cultural that surrounds it, as well as the disintegrating effect that society has on the characters within this play.

Weaknesses … The play itself is driven by specific ideas of uniquely Northern Irish issues, and as a result many of the nuances are difficult for one who does not have a grasp of the complex regional politics. Jones’s play deals with internal clashes within Protestant Unionism by creating broadly stereotypical characters: a professorial homeless guy, a prostitute, a young kid with heroic ambitions, and a transvestite. While theatrical, these characterizations shed little light on the reality of the criminal underground that is modern Belfast, and, in fact, come across as reductive.

Verdict … This is a production worth seeing for its aspirational directing and wonderful scene design alone, but Michael Toner as Knacker upstages everything and everyone else as he delivers an exhilarating performance worth the price of the ticket. His sensitivity and intelligence as an actor are captivating, not to mention his spot-on Northern Irish accent. Christopher Bohen as the transvestite Lillian is also quite good, adding a bit of glamour to this dark play. It wouldn’t do you any harm to Google a bit of info about Northern Ireland before seeing the play in order to understand it better.

Through December 7th in The Playground at the Adrienne.  Tickets $12 to $20.