Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
It takes up only 15 small pages of print, and consumes scarcely more than 40 minutes on stage. Yet John Millington Synge's "Riders to the Sea" is a profoundly beautiful and stirring dramatic elegy, one of the true gems of Irish theater.
The plot consists of a single, fateful action. Despite the reproaches of his aging mother, whose husband and five older sons have died by drowning off the Aran Islands, Bartley - the sixth and last son - sets out to sea to earn the family's keep. All too soon the mother's foreboding of disaster comes to pass.
Source, a new local drama troupe, mounted the play in matchbox space at WPA in a brief, run that ended last night.
Aside from a dawdling beginning, Bart Whiteman's direction was sympathetic and intelligent, drawing a nice distinction, for instance, between the two daughters - the vulnerable Nora and the stoic Cathleen.
Nevertheless, the performances fell short of its mark. There were two reasons, mainly. The cast did manage a reasonable approximation of the Irish dialect. But except for isolation passages, the elocution had no music to it, it lacked lilt and reasonance. The second shortcoming concerns the central role of Maurya, the mother. Only in her resigned composure at the close of the drama is Nancy Paris entirely convincing. Elsewhere it was hard to accept her elderliness, her infirmity or her motherly agitation as more than make-belive.
Michael Murphy's Cathleen, on the other hand, was skillfully persuasive throughout. Theresa Acevas and Gary Shelton were good as Nora and Bartley, and the rich gravity of Synge's dialogue made up for much.