Irish Repertory Theatre Returns in Triumph

By Cahir O'Doherty, Contributor
June / July 2016

The Irish Repertory Theatre has come home to its dramatically redesigned original space on Manhattan’s west side this month with an exciting new production of Conor McPherson’s 2006 play Shining City, a poignant play about Dubliners looking for a place to call home.

Thematically it’s the perfect choice for a company that has been in exile themselves for two years at the D2 theater space in Union Square while construction was completed on their real home.

In another coup for the theatre producing director Ciaran O’Reilly has cast starring two time Tony winner Matthew Broderick in the season opener. It’s a triumphant return to form for the Rep and a signal of the sheer ambition and forward planning that’s been guiding the new space.

Broderick is perfectly cast as mordantly funny middle aged Dublin businessman John, who’s haunted by the recent death of his wife Mari. But that haunting is happening in more than just his memories, as he tells his counselor Ian (Billy Carter), he is actually seeing Mari’s ghost in the house they shared before her death.

How did the Rep persuade Broderick, a longtime admirer of the Rep, to tackle the role? “I knew Ciaran a little bit over the years and he mentioned he was doing Shining City and asked me if I wanted to read it,” Broderick tells Irish America. “And I did and I really liked it. I was on vacation with my wife [Sex and The City’s Sarah Jessica Parker] and I couldn’t decide if I was going to do it or not because there was so much to learn but I though and thought about it and decided it was something that I would really like to do. That’s what happened.”

At 54, the still boyish looking Broderick brings his own life experience (and it must be said a certain degree of Irish melancholy) to the role, which make him a perfect fit for this atmospheric and unexpectedly funny urban ghost story. Are the lessons of his early fifties informing his performance?

“A little bit, you start to assess things and you become aware of the mistakes you made and that you can’t go back, which I guess happens in this play.”

Designed by Garrison Architects of New York, the renovation of the Rep’s space has increased the Rep’s seating to 150, adding a new 40-seat balcony and an airy new second-floor rehearsal studio and gallery that is visible from the street.

Downstairs, the Rep’s smaller second stage has also been impressively renovated and what once was once a low ceilinged basement space has become a flexible performance stage, opening it up not just to theater but to cabaret and other kinds of shows now.

“The space is gorgeous,” says Broderick, speaking of the main stage. “It’s got this height now. When I’m on stage I can’t see the house but I can feel the room. It’s so intimate but it has some air in it now. So it just couldn’t be nicer physically. And also, is it because of Ciaran and Charlotte Moore [the Rep’s artistic director], but the atmosphere there is so lovely. The people there, unless they’re all pretending, make it clear that it’s a very nice place to work. They all seem happy. I hear no whining, or barely any, except from me!”

Shining City is playing a limited run through July 3. As Broderick says himself, “I’ve seen a million shows there and they’re always good. I always like them. I think they do an amazing job with that little space.” ♦


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