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Lady G: Plays and Whisperings of Lady Gregory

Theatre Review by David Hurst - February 19, 2020

John Keating, James Russell, and Úna Clancy
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Four of the Irish Repertory Theatre's stalwart regular performers are breathing fire into the life and plays of Lady Augusta Gregory in the Rep's intimate W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre. Lady who? Funny you should ask, because Lady G: Plays and Whisperings of Lady Gregory, which has been compiled, collated and coordinated by director Ciarán O'Reilly, will give you a crash course on the grand dame of Irish theatre who just happened to be one of the co-founders of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. It's part A&E "Biography" and part History Channel "Investigates," and all charm and tongue-in-cheek humor thanks to a spirited cast and an interesting subject.

Drawn from Lady Gregory's autobiography as well as voluminous other literary sources (all of which are credited in the program), O'Reilly has done a deft job of pulling together the basics of Gregory's life without giving in to sensationalism or gossip. He's blessed to have Úna Clancy portraying Gregory, with colleagues John Keating, Terry Donnelly and James Russell portraying a host of real-life people, both the famous (William Butler Yeats and Sean O'Casey) and the obscure. The four actors are terrific and throw themselves into the biographical narrative with guts and gusto.

Wisely, O'Reilly closes each act with a scene from two of Lady Gregory's own plays. The first act concludes with a hilarious scene from Workhouse Ward in which Russell and Keating portray feuding, bedridden friends for whom life is an endless stream of criticism and accusations. The second act takes a more serious turn with a scene from McDonough's Wife in which Keating grapples with the death of his wife in the presence of two old women who have plenty to say about everything.

The show could use a bit of trimming, but everyone's heart is in the right place and, ultimately, Lady G: Plays and Whisperings of Lady Gregory shines a warm glow on an overlooked playwright, producer, and nurturer of the greatest writers of the Irish Renaissance.

Lady G: Plays and Whisperings of Lady Gregory
Through March 22, 2020
Irish Repertory Theatre's W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street
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