“Erin Go Braghless” rewrites


Hi, everyone! Great session today discussing BU’s production of Erin Go Braghless. Here’s where you can post rewritten reviews as comments! -Scott

8 Comments on ““Erin Go Braghless” rewrites

  1. The Caviar of Problems–Erin Go Brah-less Rewrite
    By Samantha Norton

    It’s the caviar of street drugs, the choice drug of celebrities: cocaine. But John Shea’s cast of characters in his original play, Erin Go Bragh-less, show you that doing a line of cocaine isn’t enough to transport you out of your own dysfunctional reality. Erin Go Bragh-less, which was performed at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at the Cape Cod Community College, takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride that has more highs and lows than the side effects of cocaine.
    This original play takes place in Somerville, Massachusetts, and depicts the dysfunctional lives of nine low-life friends and how their lives encompass every aspect of human drama. For main characters Barry, Kelly, Steve, and Maura, their addiction is out of their control, but then again maintaining a sense of control over an addiction never comes without a little retaliation.
    From infidelity, to drug use, to alcohol abuse, and even to arguments that never have a resolution, Barry and his wife, Kelly, have a relationship that is dysfunctional to the core. Kelly hates to love him, and loves to hate him. But while Barry tries to control her with every fiber—mentally, emotionally, and physically—he fails to realize that his dominance is the problem. Despite Barry’s self-centered and crude actions, Kelly always finds a way to swallow her dignity and a reason to go back. As an audience member, you become addicted to their toxic relationship, but once you realize that their characters have no desire to change their habits, you have no desire to watch their addiction continue to unfold.
    Kelly, played by Caroline Rose Markham, is crafted to represent white trash—living in the projects and off of welfare, pregnant at the age of 20 with her first child, and stuck with a husband who is married to a rundown Irish bar rather than his own family. Markham’s character begs for your sympathy, but as an audience member you don’t feel sorry for her because rather than trying to escape dysfunction, she compulsively thrives in it, and Barry knows that.
    Barry, played by Alexander J Morgan, is constructed to perfection. From the character’s vulgarity and his hypocritical tendencies, Morgan is able to deliver a performance that not only makes you laugh at his character’s ignorance, but also makes you detest his vulgar and violent mindset.
    Similar to Barry and Kelly’s relationship, their friends Steve and his wife Maura have infinite reasons to part ways, but the addiction of living in constant dysfunction prevails. Unlike Kelly, Maura has strength and the proper mindset that allows her to force herself to walk away. While Maura, played by Sarah Lavere, is able to keep the distance between her and Steve for a short period of time, her emotions eventually bring her back.
    Control and dysfunction were the main foci of this original play. The design of the set and costume enhanced the understanding the environment. Each character living in these mean projects have a dream of amounting to something more—but it was their inability to beat the addiction of drugs, alcohol, and abuse that ultimately made them stuck in their own dysfunctional reality.
    While it seemed as though these characters would be able to takeover control of their actions and emotions and leave their dysfunctional world behind, the play ended the same way it started—with infidelity, drugs, alcohol, abuse, and abusive arguments that never rose to a resolution.

  2. Freud once said that the irish are the only people who are immune to psychoanalysis. A good long look at the families within Boston University’s production of Erin Go Bragh-less is enough to convince anyone of that statement. These people could frighten the Mansons. Fair warning, if you’re easily offended, read no further.

    Before the play even begins, it becomes perfectly apparent that the irish play a heavy role in things to come. The stage is decorated in green and shamrocks and a central bar with wooden stools and tables around it. The title itself is a bastardization of “long live Ireland”. This becomes even clearer once the characters open their mouths.

    Imagine an irish catholic family in Massachusetts; with beer, broads, brawls, and the kind of colorful language often reserved for American poor white trash. Characters spend entire chunks of their lives on bar stools, rickety kitchen tables, and perpetually smoking cigarettes. We’re treated to coke addicts, drinking binges, violent relationships, stabbings, threats, screaming family members, flashing, drunken ramblings, teen pregnancies, catholic pregnancies, hopeful pregnancies, hoax pregnancies; every kind of pregnancy you could imagine. Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

    The play requires a kind of audience member who can follow along with some pretty shocking happenings without being distracted. It’s rude and crude, but you will catch yourself laughing at some of what spews out of their mouths. It’s also surprisingly sophisticated in the way it’s staged. Four main set locations are all depicted at once, multiple conversations take place within scenes, and storylines alternate line by line. It’s clear to see that a lot of thought and effort went into creating the wonderful sets. There are no great cathedrals, but each location feels eerily real. I’d wager more than one person went up on stage after the show to see if the bar actually had a tap. It would definitely benefit to see the play more than once to really keep track and follow what goes on. It can be difficult to register everything that happens; characters gossip, break-up, offer advice, storm off, and coke up in rapid-fire succession. The Boston-irish accents vary from selective to broad. Certain words just lend themselves to accentuation. “Put the cah in the bahn if you con’t pahk outside” and et cetera. Oddly appropriate, the most foul-mouthed characters usually kept it up the most.

    The story is that of perpetual suffering and dysfunction within a group of friends. Arguments over who’s with who, who went back with who, who’s pregnant, who’s coked out of their minds, who’s getting out, and who’s to blame for it all. It cycles itself back around by the end, further stressing the idea that life is neither simple, nor clean, nor definitive. The nine characters are all messed up in one way or another (or in many ways all at once). There are no social workers here. One can’t help but wonder if being irish in this community just naturally makes life a hopeless mess. The personalities of several characters lend themselves to varying degrees of dysfunction and masochism. Each actor and actress fearlessly brings to life their thoroughly appalling character. Most of them spend the entire play on-stage, even if they are in the shadows smoking cigarettes while other scenes transpire.

    It never feels like you’re waiting for something to happen, as there is nary a moment of awkward silence until the very end. Said ending feels like a sudden and unexpected visual moment that leaves you questioning its meaning and purpose, but not its emotional weight. Recall the Freudian expression.

  3. Booze and cocaine keep the toxic chowder simmering in The Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Theater production of Erin Go Bragh-less, and provides the fuel that lets it boil over, magnificently. This play plows ahead with the vulgar pace of a St. Patty’s Day stupor, leaving in its wake the unsettling reality of nine South Boston denizens. The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival of 2013’s viewing audience at the Community College of Cape Cod ‘s Tilden Arts Center bore witness to this 90-minute calamity, complete with the fixings that make the Irish holiday so detestable at times and so endearing at others. That said, this play is rife with the foul: from drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, stalking, cuckoldry, and racism. With no intermission or set-change, the audience was locked in — for better or worse.
    Like any true bender — especially one set in a city as qualified as Somerville, Massachusetts to play host on this date — we end up with more questions than answers.
    In Erin Go Bragh-less, the overall quality of acting, directing, and production make up for some of the flaws with this story. The wit of playwright John Shea’s words are as sharp as the heavy South Boston accents Shea’s characters verbally berate each other with. Shea’s absurd and profane humor is skillfully placed throughout the piece. Its clear he has a knack for breaking up subject matter that is becoming dense with this humor. “Maybe nobody is happy,” laments the bilious Barry, who swiftly thereafter asserts he wished he were gay. “Jesus was gay,” he slips in after a brief, awkward pause in dialogue with his closest confidant Bill.
    The audience exploded with raucous laughter frequently throughout the performance during such exchanges. Accordingly, one couldn’t help but wonder if the show may have benefitted from some form of voice magnification during these audience outbursts. With the pace of this play, it made me uneasy to consider the possibility of losing dialogue.
    The coke and booze circulating in the blood of Shea’s characters leads to authentic anger that manifested throughout this play. One instance is a fight between husband and wife characters Barry and Kelly, where Barry’s backhand sent a shockwave that resonated across the theater with only the use of natural sound. This exchange illustrates the most successful aspect of this play, the strength of its actors.
    Another of noteworthy exchange was between the character Maura (Sarah Lavere), and her cokehead husband Steve (Nathan Wainright). In a delusional attempt to break the schism between them, Steve demands, not suggests, from Maura that they conceive. The power and outright defiance in Maura’s voice as she rips this proposal made the hair on my arm stand up, albeit briefly, reminding us that sometimes a women’s voice is the most powerful instrument.
    One of the more puzzling aspects of this play was it’s ending. Seeing as though I spent the majority of the time perusing for a theme to justify the hideousness inherent in this play’s relationships, the Bagpipe-driven “Amazing Grace” that accompanied Maura as she finally left the dystopia was a curious choice. The version of this song is reserved for scenes of loss and death. It is a funeral song. It was as if Shea had dug his characters graves, retiring any notion of change.
    In the end, we came away wanting more from this play but mostly from the Shea’s characters themselves, who aside from Bill the levelheaded bartender possessed no redeeming qualities. To this token, the fact we even came away wanting seconds, may have been Erin Go Bragh-less most redeeming quality.

  4. Erin Go Bragh-less: a messy, but genuine peek at relationships
    By James Barcomb

    As the curtain opens on John Shea’s Erin Go Bragh-less, performed at Cape Cod Community College by Boston University for the 2013 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, the audience hears the opening beats of a fun rock tune that seems to be telling them, “Sit back, let loose, it’s St. Patty’s Day!” These are soon replaced, however, by some harsh and cold instrumentals that occupy the rest of the song. Such is the nature of the play: brutal reality interspersed with the occasional comic touch. It seeks to provide insight into the lives of several Irish-American friends and their rocky relationships, and although it’s somewhat overwhelming at times, the play largely succeeds, thanks to some snappy writing and a terrific ensemble.
    Set in Shea’s native Somerville, Massachusetts over the course of St. Patrick’s Day weekend, 2004, Erin Go Bragh-less quickly introduces us to its main players: bartender Bill and his friend Barry; Barry’s wife Kelly and her best friend Lisa; Linda and her two daughters, Maura and Sandra; Maura’s husband, Steve, and Sandra’s boyfriend, Ryan, each and every one with a thick Boston accent. If that list of characters seems difficult to keep track of, it’s a correct representation of the way we first meet them. Within the first five minutes, characters enter and exit, trading banter with each other in rapid fashion; these conversations typically overlap one another, an intriguing technique that soon grows tiring and often only adds to the confusion. Though we eventually get to know these people, the sheer amount of story Shea tries to squeeze into a mere 90 minutes prevents a few figures from getting the necessary development they deserve, namely Steve and Maura. Their abusive relationship (halfway through, Steve lands in jail for stabbing Maura in the arm) feels like a last-minute addition to an already-packed script.
    Thankfully, much of the material works. The play takes us through the ordeals of domestic abuse, miscarriage, alcoholism, drug problems, and theft, and offers no easy answers. Despite their attempts otherwise, most of the characters end up right back where they started, figuratively and literally. The one that stands out the most, Bill, also happens to be the one we most identify with. He tries to be the light in the dark tunnel that surrounds him, breaking the escalating tension with cheerful quips (“Relax, it’s St. Patrick’s Day!”). At the same time, he too recognizes the changes everyone and everything is going through; Bill is particularly saddened by the fact that his heritage seems to be slowly disappearing from the town and has instead been replaced with “sushi bars,” while the true residents are left to tend to the gutters.
    That being said, Bill’s strength must also be credited to the strength of actor Sam Tilles. Though he has less material than most of his co-stars, Tilles nails every one of his comic moments and proves he’s equally effective at drama, especially when his character decides to assert himself. The ensemble as a whole is remarkable; the casual and intimate ways in which they play off each other makes it seem like they’ve been together for years. Their chemistry renders nearly every conversation genuine, whether lighthearted (Bill and Barry sit at the bar, discussing the nature of stereotypes in film) or troubling (Linda discusses her marriage with Maura, admitting “there’s a fine line between love and gratitude”).
    Martin Gjoni’s scenic design is also worthy of note, placing us right in the middle of Somerville. A rundown bar with four-leaf clovers hastily pasted onto the side is surrounded by chairs and tables that act as both pieces of the bar and the homes of other characters. For a section in the second half of the show, stools are placed on top of the bar to create the jail cell Steve is trapped in, a simple, but extremely creative move.
    Erin Go Bragh-less is not a seamless play and could do with a bit of re-writing, particularly in the area of pace and character development. However, what we walk away with are the particularly strong elements: an energetic cast, engaging writing, and technical choices (like the opening music) that paint a stirring picture of friends and families struggling with poverty, abuse, addiction and depression in their day-to-day lives.

  5. Booze and Blow : The Twisted Tale of Erin Go Bragh-less
    by Mark D. Prokes
    First Draft

    A gaggle of drunks and drug addicts gathered in a South Boston bar for one fateful St. Patrick’s Day evening. The events that emerge from this bubbling cauldron of rage and insecurities are what unfold in Erin Go Bragh-less, a play from the BU New Play Initiative performed at KCACTF on January 1st 2013. The play explores the inter-connected relationships between the members of several downtrodden Irish-American families that come to a dangerous peak during the infamous holiday. What results will test the resolve of the characters and the stomachs of the audience. It is a brutal piece that refuses to pull its punches and never lets up.
    One thing should be abundantly clear to anyone in the audience; this is NOT a pretty play. The characters are base, vulgar and generally nasty people that would sooner die then apologize to anyone earnestly. A torrent of racial slurs are excreted from the mouth of one of the male leads within the first few minutes, quickly letting everyone know just exactly what they can expect from the rest of the show. Throughout the play, the characters constantly get in their own ways, being led by their violent, sociopathic emotions. The characters can, however, come off as somewhat flat, as they rarely show emotions other than rage unless they are scared of losing something. The exceptions to this include the Mother, who seems to be genuinely concerned for her daughter’s well-being even though she is unsure of how to express it, and the pair of Bill-the-bartender and Lisa-the-insecure-friend, who are the closest to being sympathetic out of all of the characters. The two of them are aware of the destructive influences their friends have on them and seek each other out as a means of solace, but end up getting pulled back into the maelstrom regardless. The play is cyclical in nature, with many of the characters finding themselves in much the same situation at the end as they were in at the beginning. Thematically the show seems to be saying “We Dig Our Graves”, as the characters could at any time liberate themselves from their viscous cycle, but pathologically choose to stay, and thus it will repeat.
    The production is both helped and hindered by many of the technical aspects, as well as by the direction. The static set is used to represent multiple locations simultaneously, being realistic enough for the grimness of the show but also requiring the audience to use their imaginations to fill in some of the locales, such as when the stools of the bar were overturned to represent a jail cell. It is a compromise that most likely arose due to the limits of budget and space, and it does its job quite well. Many scenes have multiple dialogues (or monologues) running parallel to but separate from each other, contrasting the views held in each of the conversations and allowing them to build of each other quite nicely. This method does get unwieldy when there are more than two of these dialogues going on, and the actors have a nasty habit of upstaging themselves as well, especially when the aisles are utilized in the blocking. All of the characters were portrayed wonderfully with spot on accents to boot. However, many times the overlapping dialogue caused some of it to be lost. This was compounded by the fact that many times there were no pauses for laughter made the show a good bit harder to understand.
    The result is a thought-provoking but flawed show. There are humorous moments interspersed throughout, and it is quite thematically interesting, but the sheer bitterness can make it very off-putting. It may a bit more time on the drawing board.

  6. Writing What he Knew Lead to Success
    Erin Go Bragh-less
    Revised Review by Maria Dominguez

    An anonymous person once wisely advised “Write What you Know.” Playwright John Shea followed this advice. Shea told interviewer Doug Holder that all of his plays are set in the “Ville”. Shea lived in Magoun square in Somerville. In the 70’s it was a neighborhood filled with desperately poor working class families along with “drugs, crimes, and dead ends.” Shea dropped out of high school in order to work. This is Somerville, which never changes. Erin Go Bragh-less is set in 2004.
    Erin Go Bragh-less was created at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and was featured in the Boston University’s new play initiative. It was presented at Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and featured at Region one’s forty-fifth festival. The title is a play on words for the anglicization of an Irish phrase, Éirinn go Brách, which mean Ireland Forever. By adding less to Bragh, Shae is essentially saying Ireland forever… but not. After all, the show is described as depicting a tight knit Irish-American family as they inflict wounds physically and mentally on each other, during St Patrick’s Day weekend.
    The actors of this production seemed to relate to the characters age as the characters they were playing were close to their age. I felt the most difficult character to play was Linda, played by Caroline Cleary, who was Sandra and Maura’s mother. There was a maturity to her character, Cleary convinced us that Linda really cared about her children but was unable to help them as they repeated her mistakes. The costumes designed by Rebecca Saenz were typical clothing that you would see trashy people wearing with a touch of green for St. Patrick’s Day. I particularly enjoyed the sparkly green platform shoes that Kelly wore which matched her outrageous pants.
    The KCACTF production used only one set for the show. It was impressive that they were able to transport it from Boston to Cape Cod. While the set effectively divided the stage into spaces via spotlights, the space used in the aisles was not effective. Throughout the entire play there were multiple discussions happening at the same time and because the aisles were not lit well, the action in the aisles was easy to miss. If I hadn’t been elbowed, I would have missed an important scene where Ryan was doing drugs, which caused him to ruin the party at the bar.
    At the beginning of the play it was difficult to tell if the characters on stage were talking to each other or if there were two separate conversations happening concurrently. During the first act Kelly was talking to Lisa at home, while Barry was talking to Bill at the bar. Because their lines overlapped, with nothing but lights to divide them on stage for a moment it seemed Kelly and Lisa were at the bar too. As the production went on it became easier to tell when characters were together and when there were two (or three!) conversations happening at once.
    While the play was only 90 minutes, there was no intermission, which made it seem longer. Most of the play was filled with dense serious moments in which the characters were arguing, screaming and fighting. The show covered many problems such as relationship and domestic abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction, prostitution, poverty and teenage pregnancy. While there were comic moments such as when Bill called Jesus gay, and when Sandra drunkenly flashed passing people, an intermission would have been a good time to digest the first half of the play before continuing on to the second half.
    I would attribute the success of this production to its relevant themes. These problems still occur especially in lower-class neighborhoods. By writing about what he knew John Shea created a compelling play with the ability to capture an audience and show them what life was and is like in Somerville, Massachusetts.

  7. Booze and cocaine keep the toxic chowder simmering in The Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Theater production of Erin Go Bragh-less, and provides the fuel that lets it boil over, magnificently. This play plows ahead with the vulgar pace of a St. Patty’s Day stupor, leaving in its wake the unsettling reality of nine South Boston denizens. The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival of 2013’s viewing audience at the Community College of Cape Cod ‘s Tilden Arts Center bore witness to this 90-minute calamity, complete with the fixings that make the Irish holiday so detestable at times and so endearing at others. That said, this play is rife with the foul: from drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, stalking, cuckoldry, and racism. With no intermission or set-change, the audience was locked in — for better or worse.
    Like any true bender — especially one set in a city as qualified as Somerville, Massachusetts to play host on this date — we end up with more questions than answers.
    In Erin Go Bragh-less, the overall quality of acting, directing, and production make up for some of the flaws with this story. The wit of playwright John Shea’s words are as sharp as the heavy South Boston accents Shea’s characters verbally berate each other with. Shea’s absurd and profane humor is skillfully placed throughout the piece. Its clear he has a knack for breaking up subject matter that is becoming dense with this humor. “Maybe nobody is happy,” laments the bilious Barry, who swiftly thereafter asserts he wished he were gay. “Jesus was gay,” he slips in after a brief, awkward pause in dialogue with his closest confidant Bill.
    The audience exploded with raucous laughter frequently throughout the performance during such exchanges. Accordingly, one couldn’t help but wonder if the show may have benefitted from some form of voice magnification during these audience outbursts. With the pace of this play, it made me uneasy to consider the possibility of losing dialogue.
    The coke and booze circulating in the blood of Shea’s characters leads to authentic anger that manifested throughout this play. One instance is a fight between husband and wife characters Barry and Kelly, where Barry’s backhand sent a shockwave that resonated across the theater with only the use of natural sound. This exchange illustrates the most successful aspect of this play, the strength of its actors.
    Another of noteworthy exchange was between the character Maura (Sarah Lavere), and her cokehead husband Steve (Nathan Wainright). In a delusional attempt to break the schism between them, Steve demands, not suggests, from Maura that they conceive. The power and outright defiance in Maura’s voice as she rips this proposal made the hair on my arm stand up, albeit briefly, reminding us that sometimes a women’s voice is the most powerful instrument.
    One of the more puzzling aspects of this play was it’s ending. Seeing as though I spent the majority of the time perusing for a theme to justify the hideousness inherent in this play’s relationships, the Bagpipe-driven “Amazing Grace” that accompanied Maura as she finally left the dystopia was a curious choice. The version of this song is reserved for scenes of loss and death. It is a funeral song. It was as if Shea had dug his characters graves, retiring any notion of change.
    In the end, we came away wanting more from this play but mostly from the Shea’s characters themselves, who aside from Bill the levelheaded bartender possessed no redeeming qualities. To this token, the fact we even came away wanting seconds, may have been the most redeeming quality of Erin Go Bragh-less.

  8. I want to thank everyone for their reviews of my play, “Erin Go Bragh-less,” at the KCACTF in Hyannis. The reviews were thoughtful and insightful. With intelligence and grace the reviewers here are giving me the chance to see the play with new eyes and to re-examine both structure and content. Constructive reviews such as these can become part of the process of creating new theatre. These reviews do what many recent reviews fail to. They open the door to discussion and actually analyze the work rather than give a synopsis and general reaction. Artists should not be afraid of a critics words and should look at reviews as another perspective, another way to understand what it is we are striving for with our work. I thank you all and wish you luck in the future. All the best- John Shea

Leave a Reply to Dan Tomasik Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: