3.5 out of 4 stars
Dangerously funny and wickedly relatable, Roddy Doyle exposes the human condition in his work Two Pints. Set in The Pub at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, audiences listen in on the conversation between two men at a bar which over the course of a few rounds, their characters’ banter evolves from ramblings about tonsils and TV carpark shows to life and death.
A charming slice of Dublin right in Chicago! Irish novelist, dramatist and screen writer Roddy Doyle is exemplary! A wonderful exploration of Irish culture through honest language and witty comedy. Doyle explores the working man’s life and experiences. He brings theater’s intrinsic nature back to us through utilizing the power of listening as the crux.
This intimate performance feeds off the site-sympathetic space. Dublin city bunting hangs from the rafters while you order from the bar prior to show and during intermissions. Niel Murray and Graham McLaren, directors of Abbey Theatre and Two Pints’s original run, recruited Caitríona McLaughlin to direct this site-specific production and tour it to pubs all around Ireland. It sounds like the National Tour was set up to bring the play about the working man directly to the working man. Bringing theater to the countryside and involving an audience otherwise left out
An excited mummer mounts to a raucous right before first cue in the small pub. Two of Ireland’s leading actors take center stools: Liam Carney and Philip Judge. The pair play wonderfully off each other and creating such a natural pacing for Doyle’s work. The piece’s tone rises and falls with each segment. Banter falls weigh side to character development told through hopes, fears, and reality. It builds and swells making the entire piece endearing and reflective. Carney has an extensive career in film including roles in Braveheart, Gangs of New York and Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments. Judge recently had a critically acclaimed run in the titular role of King Lear at the Mill Theatre and numerous TV credits including Ripper Street.
With minimalist theater performances like this once, I always am fascinated by any secondary characters. The bartender played by Laurence Lowry is an ever present character either reading, balancing the money drawer or doing the crossword. It’s a silent, yet vital role into the concept of comfort and silent support. Amid the laughs and meandering conversation there is a palpable reality that hits you in the gut. The unrelenting passage of time hones in on these two middle aged men truly asking “what’s the fucking point of it all”? The Irish questioning existence is Waiting for Godot with a pint to kill time. Doyle illuminates the concept that is often not highlighted enough and I have only ever witnessed first-hand. The community of the Irish pub. Seeing your friends, your neighbors, your community often enough that they become your second family. Trauma or death is only bearable by the support you receive – like everything in life it’s about the ones that affect you along the way and this production empathetically does that.
The lighting scheme in such a small space was also something I would really like to highlight. Four small tungsten spots are staggered in an isosceles trapezoid format. The perfect portable scheme for variable settings. It gives the most direct light without being harsh and lightening corners ever so slightly – the dim light where the ever-present bartender leans. The warm tungsten tones adds to the overall dim and cozy feeling pubs often have. The blocking was also phenomenal as the simple rotation of seats and by the third Act to have both men standing primarily leaning back on the bar and facing the audience. The masculine vulnerability transitioning from private talks to openly faced conversations when intoxicated. An interesting choice – almost as if an alcohol infused metaphor for the drum beats on.
Two Pints has an honesty that flows as much as the Guinness’s do. King Richard is found in a parking lot. A sad looking woman is attractive while a sad looking man is a cu*t. A death as per Irish literary tradition. Doyle’s work is deeply evocative and relatable to the human spirit. This production is so much more than seeking solace at the bottom of a pint glass – it’s about who you share the pint with.
Two Pints is playing now through March 31st, 2019 in The Pub at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. For more information or to purchase tickets, please contact CST’s Box Office at 312-595-5600 or www.chicagoshakes.com/twopints
Two Pints US Tour is sponsered by Culture Ireland.
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!