Luck Just Kissed You Hello: What is it to be a man?

Ideals of masculinity found wanting in Amy Conroy’s play

LUCK JUST KISSED YOU HELLO

Abbey Theatre, Peacock Stage
★★★☆☆

In Amy Conroy’s 2015 play Luck Just Kissed You Hello three men have gathered at the bedside of their dying father. Mark (Riley Carter) and Gary (Ross O’Donnellan) are Big Ted Donovan’s estranged natural children; Sullivan (Jamie O’Neill) is their childhood friend, who stepped in to fill the gap when Mark and Gary fled their stifling rural home and their father’s oppressive gaze a decade previously. The reunion is not a happy one. Interpersonal conflicts of both the historic and present moment abound. Gary, who is gay, and Sullivan, who is about to become a father, are wrestling with Mark’s new identity (the last time they saw each other, Mark was Laura). However, the three characters are all struggling with the concept of what it means to be a man. “Duty. Reliability. Dignity. Honour. Respect”: that is what the internet says true masculinity looks like, Gary tells us, and later Mark says the same thing. But ideals mean nothing in the face of the daily challenges they face.

In Wayne Jordan’s painterly production, the characters may as well be gathered at Big Ted’s grave. On the raised and tilted Peacock stage, they look down into the audience as if at a coffin being lowered into the ground. Designer Sarah Bacon offers a textured grey canvas backdrop, with simple furniture that the performers rearrange in different configurations. This places the characters at constantly shifting angles to each other, the better to understand the changing dynamic of allegiances. If the sense of time and space from which the characters are speaking is not always made clear by the actors, Sarah Jane Shiels’s lights make the transitions between past and present clear.

Conroy establishes the men in opposition to each other in order to force them to define themselves; not by their beliefs but by their actions. However, the constant sparring becomes tiresome, as each character takes it in turn to explain the deep-rooted frustrations of their relationship both with Ted and each other. The symbolic sharing of the drama’s key prop – a document which demands that Mark betray himself – compounds this sense of repetition, especially when the act of signing it does not take place on stage.

In the closing moments, however, as Mark delivers the eulogy for his father, Jordan forces the suggestive text towards a more definitive revelation, making the drama’s probing exploration of masculinity move beyond gender into a metaphysical space. The three men really are versions of the same man. Standing alone on the stage, we have no choice but to see Mark for who he is.

Until May 14th

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