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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Interesting Production of The Ghost Of Molly Malone

Also see Richard's review of Stories by Tobias Wolff

The Three Wise Monkeys Theatre Company has just concluded the world premier of Aoise Stratford’s historical play, The Ghost of Molly Malone. I was particularly interested in seeing this production at Venue 9 Theatre in San Francisco for a couple of reasons. First and foremost was that I am Irish and I have been always interested in Irish history. My second interest is that I am very familiar with the Molly Malone statue at the corner of Grafton Street and Suffolk Street in Dublin, Ireland. I passed this statue of the young woman pushing her wheel barrow full of “cockles and mussels” every day for several weeks while on a film trek in the Emerald Isle. The song “cockles and mussels, alive, alive-oh” has become Dublin’s unofficial anthem.

Aoise Stratford's drama is an epic panorama of 17th Century Dublin and London, which is actually the time that Molly lived. The playwright has also fashioned a parallel story of a modern Molly in present day Chicago. However, the first act tends to become very confusing since the plot bounces back and forth almost MTV style. Many of the scenes are only minutes long and there is the constant changing of a wooden sign board on the left side of small stage to let the audience know where the action is occurring. It becomes annoying after a time.

The 1600s scenes are the most interesting, showing what might have happened to the seller of cockles and mussels. It is during the invasion of the British troops under Cromwell in Ireland when tragic circumstances force the rebellious Molly to go to London. Molly has quite an adventure in the city, getting involved with a Lord, the Drury Lane Theater and the famed witches’ persecution in Essex. The modern story involves Molly as a bag lady with a shopping cart, and Lois, a tough unwanted teen who lands in a women’s shelter in Chicago. Lois wants to be an “actress” but becomes involved with a cheap pornographer. The playwright is attempting to show how both Molly and Lois are victims who cannot communicate with normal society.

The second act of the drama is more cohesive, and the scenes of the historical Molly are longer. The dialogue for the second act is very well crafted and all of the actors have fine Irish or English accents. The parallel stories become more convincing and the weaving between the two is seamless.

The two actresses playing Molly are excellent. Arwen Anderson with her beautiful blue eyes, blonde hair and great Irish accent is wonderful as the rebellious 17th Century fishmonger. Michaela Greeley plays the omnipresent Chicago bag lady and she is commanding in her performance. Lois Oglesby is effective as tough as nails Lois. Newcomer W. Jay Moore who is working in his first full production is very good as a member of the British aristocracy. Jayson Matthews plays many character and shows promise, especially in two roles opposite each other: a sickly soul in 1620 with a fever and a crude, manipulative pornographer. The rest of the cast (Treacy Corrigan, David Fenerty, Danielle Ozymandias, Kate Sheehan and Michael J. Symonds) play various roles and they perform well with excellent Irish or English accents.

The Ghost of Molly Malone closed on August 3. The Three Wise Monkeys Theatre Company will be presenting a two night variety pack of nineteen short plays by Bay Area Writers at the Eureka Theatre on August 26 and 27th. For more information, visit www.threewisemonkeys.org.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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