Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Miracle of Ballydonal

Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's reviews of A Christmas Carol and An Adobe Christmas Carol and Dean's review of DeliKateSSen

Image by Harrison Sim
Here's a play that's a riot full of laughs. Clever laughs, ironic laughs, and full surprising belly laughs. James Caputo's The Miracle of Ballydonal is receiving its premiere production at Fusion.

In the setup, three guys are in in a pub in a remote Irish village. They've gathered to say goodbye to Eileen Donally (Jacqueline Reid). Even before Eileen shows up, we learn that she has insisted she doesn't want to see One Shot Donal (Ross Kelly) at her goodbye party. He's her former boyfriend of 10 years whom she ditched when she discovered nine months earlier that his last name isn't really Donal—it's Jackson, a name that would be unacceptable to Eileen's father, since it's not Donal or McDonal or MacDonal or Donaldson. And sure enough One Shot is there for Eileen's send-off.

One Shot's two friends are cousins Finn Begone McDonal (Bruce Holmes) and Saintjack MacDonal (William Sterchi). Finn Begone is a heavy drinker who gets his words wrong, and Saintjack is a bachelor who is probably gay—but of course nobody is gay in Ballydonal. He once spent two weeks in seminary school. Why he was ousted remains a mystery full of gay rumors.

The story gets going when Eileen arrives. She is horrified that One Shot is there, and she soon heads for the bathroom. She's gone a very long time. A bit later Saintjack heads to the bathroom and comes back in shock. He explains that the men's room was flooded, so he used the women's room and saw an infant swaddled in the sink. After a couple of shots of whiskey, so they can all calm down, Finn Begone checks the women's room and sure enough he comes back also in shock.

Through discussion and squabbles they guess that Eileen is the mother and they also figure out that nine months earlier they each had an encounter with Eileen at the Sligo Fair, although Finn Begone and Saintjack are very unclear about what their encounters with Eileen involved. At any rate each man thinks he might be the father Then, Eileen walks in with the infant in her arms, and the men decide it's a miracle.

And there are plenty more mysteries to come when Eileen shows off the baby and the baby's black. Another miracle.

Playwright Caputo has seen a number of his shorter plays produced by Fusion, including Amy's Wish, which won the Audience Choice Award as part of "Seven," Fusion's annual presentation of short plays. Last year Fusion presented an excellent staged reading of The Miracle of Ballydonal. Even in a staged-reading format it was powerfully funny. Fully fleshed out, it soars.

At first I was a bit surprised that a play so Irish would have been penned by a man named Caputo. As it turns out, he's three-quarters Irish, though probably not on the Caputo side. Is it a coincidence he would draft a play where everything hangs on a last name—Jackson—that is only one quarter of One Shot's heritage?

Fusion has put together a strong cast, as the company always does. Co-directed by Charles Clute and Frederick Franklin, the production is solid throughout, with terrific comic pacing and continually rising mystery. The scenic and lighting design by Richard K. Hogle creates a lovely Irish pub, down to the smallest details, such as a Heineken empty on the bar. Not everything in Ireland is going to be pure Irish.

Kelly and Sterchi turn in delightful performances, both funny and full of pathos. Reid is always wonderful on stage, charming, bright, and alive—completely believable in all moments. But this play belongs to Holmes. Finn Begone is a juicy role, and Holmes eats it and drinks it down. He delivers the half-drunk, half-clever, almost-poetic Finn Begone in all his sloppy beauty, throwing off brilliant malaprops in full Leo Gorcey glory. It's like there's no acting involved at all—a pure natural storm.

Fusion's The Miracle of Ballydonal runs through December 27, 2019, at the Cell Theatre, 700 1st St NW, Albuquerque, with some performances at the Kimo Theatre and The Blue Grasshopper Brewery in Albuquerque; the Los Alamos Little Theatre in Los Alamos; and the Maria Benitez Cabaret at The Lodge in Santa Fe. For tickets and information, visit