Luck Just Kissed You Hello
Mick Lally Theatre, Galway
The best way to describe Amy Conroy's new play for Hot for Theatre, co-produced by Galway International Arts Festival, is as a family drama combined with a mystery. With the imminent death of a severe father, Big Ted Donovan, three figures convene in his hospital room to decide the fate of his remains and to piece together his eulogy. It's an evocative juncture, imposing some shape on a painful past, reckoning with a deeply submerged childhood trauma while trying to determine the future.
Ted’s next of kin is at a similar crisis point: named in the will as his daughter Laura but standing here as Mark, who Conroy makes equal parts dauntless and defensive. Long estranged and recently transformed, Mark shares the room with his twin, Gary (Will O’Connell), a successful gay businessman, and Sullivan (Mark Fitzgerald), a blokeish, uncomplicated friend taken in by their father.
For a while, Mark is just one of the lads; bluntly unsentimental, aggressively humorous and prone to lacerating bouts of badinage about Gary’s champagne lifestyle and Sullivan’s easily riled masculinity.
Conroy’s performance is revealing yet unshowy, subtly “acting male” in a show that is about how men act. It’s a physical performance entirely free of parody, for which Conroy keeps her gait low and her expression spare, flashing a sly grin at moments of combat.
The others accept this dynamic – the abusive squabbling of kids – more readily than they accept Mark (gender pronouns are notoriously slippery and hotly contested) or his version of events: “You’re remembering it wrong”; “You’re making it up as you go along”.
Aedín Cosgrove’s set may be clinically drab, matched with the percussive rendering of a heart monitor by Carl Kennedy’s sound design, but director Caitriona McLaughlin is really headed for a more metaphysical space, sometimes making arch allusions with just a line of chairs or a stack of plastic cups.
This is why, for all the keen detail of Laura not “fitting her skin” and the poetic sensitivity of Conroy’s text to gender dysphoria, the play is something other than a statement on transgender politics.
Instead, the characters become more conceptual (at times, too schematic), suggesting a spectrum of masculinity where Mark might locate himself. “You want us to see you,” he is told, amid shifting recollections of sexuality and humiliation. “You’ve been standing behind us.” That limits O’Connell and Fitzgerald to playing supporting characters, defined finally more as types than people. Yet it allows, more movingly, for one character’s self-realisation: a hard-won reconciliation and the making of a man.
Runs until July 25th