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Off Broadway Reviews


Theatre Review by David Hurst - February 23, 2020

Stanley Townsend
Photo by Carol Rosegg
The Irish Repertory Theatre is staging the U.S. premiere of Incantata, the staged presentation of a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon. The piece premiered at the 2018 Galway International Arts Festival and was staged last year at Dublin's Gate Theatre. Returning for this production are director Sam Yates and Irish actor Stanley Townsend. The poem, a dark, dense rant at the death of a loved one, is a harrowing journey into the mind of a grieving artist. Be warned, it's not for the faint of heart or anyone looking for light entertainment.

Written in 1992 upon the death of his former partner, Mary Farl Powers (an acclaimed printmaker who died of breast cancer when she was only 43 years old), Muldoon's wide-ranging poem explores his grief and their relationship. The problem is that American audience members may be unfamiliar with Muldoon's lexicon and writing style, so it may be wise to read the poem in advance and look up any unknown words and references. Otherwise, much of the poem may be lost on such viewers.

What won't be lost is the emotionally gripping performance by Townsend, a commanding actor with a riveting presence. He and Yates have transformed the poem into a multi-sensory experience, with cryptic music by Teho Teardo, an eclectic set and costuming by Rosanna Vize, evocative lighting by Paul Keogan, edgy video design by Jack Phelan, and haunting sound design by Sinéad Diskin.

Incantata is a passionate exploration of the complexities of a relationship between two artists. It is a vivid onstage testament to their art, lives, love and loss. And who can't relate to that?

Through March 15, 2020
Irish Repertory Theatre's W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street
Tickets online and current performance schedule: