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Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Stories by Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín
Word for Word Performing Arts Company
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's recent reviews of Macbeth, Hair and Dirty Dancing

Richard Farrell and
Robert Sicular in Silence

Photo by Julie Schuchard
Word for Word Performing Arts Company is presenting two charming Irish stories by modern Irish authors Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín. Word for Word's mission is to tell great stories with elegant, theatrically staged performances of classic and contemporary fiction. It is one of the few companies in this country that does such productions.

The company is currently presenting Emma Donoghue's Night Vision and Colm Tóibín's Silence with superb actors. Both of these writers have Oscar-nominated films based on their novels currently in release: Donoghue's Room and Tóibín's Brooklyn.

Night Vision tells the story of the young, blind Frances Browne who became one of Ireland's renowned poets. She was born into a family of 12 and the story traces her life from age eight through her development into a poet. Rosie Hallett is dazzling in the role of Frances, or Fanny. She has great support from her family, especially from her father, who is played brilliantly by Robert Sicular.

The one-hour drama features beautiful and humorous vignettes by members of the ensemble. Richard Farrell, Rudy Guerrero, Stephanie Hunt, Patricia Silver, and Sheila Balter play various roles, from the children to the adults. Each has a superb West County Irish accent, thanks to dialect coach Lynne Soffer. Director Becca Wolff skillfully moves the cast through a simplistic set just by raising or lowering white curtains in the background to make the stage a bedroom or a schoolroom. The cast adroitly changes their costumes without detracting from the play.

Silence recreates the love affair between Lady Gregory and the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. It is told by Henry James, played vividly by Robert Sicular. Stephanie Hunt is marvelous as Lady Gregory while Rudy Guerrero is pitch perfect as Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. The acting here is stylized, as it should be, since these are upper class Anglo Irish. Richard Farrell, Rosie Hallett, and Patricia Silver play various parts proficiently. Direction by Jim Cave is smooth and effective. Once again, the accents are wonderful, thanks to Lynne Soffer.

Word for Word is presenting these two Irish plays through April 3rd, 2016, at Z Below, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco Tickets can be obtained by calling 866-811-4111 or at