Performing Arts: Theater
September 14, 2014
The Beach Boys “Wouldn’t it be Nice?” welcomes a lone man with a sports coat slung over his shoulder, a drink in a plastic bag. “This was our Central Park,” Sean Doran shares in a thick Irish accent, referring to the Half Moon Lake. Actor Ciaran Nolan fiercely emerges as the disturbed, lost Irishman in the one-man show, “Man in the Moon.”

Doran is recently jobless, a gambler and recreational drug user, with a daughter whom he never sees, and a string of women he can only bring himself to recall as “her” or “she.” Despite the cynical tone and profanity-riddled monologues, his stories of friends past are soon realized as more than mere memories, and rather the ultimate preservation of those who’ve left him, and the world, willingly.

In Pearse Elliot’s “Man in the Moon,” the content is serious, the delivery, hilarious. It takes on troubling issue of suicide; in fact its creation was commissioned in response to Ireland’s rising suicide rates. The comedy comes in the morsels of humanity shared about each absent character and the way in which Nolan’s performance and Tony Delvin’s direction ensure it all unfolds without relying on the sensitivity, politically-correctness, or tip-toeing often reserved for such. That said, the introspection, unanswered questions, decided pauses, and discussion of the unthinkable that are carefully woven into Elliot’s script allow for a commendable raw and honest vantage point.

We hear of the man at the lake who once captivated the boys with his tales, only to be washed ashore at the lake; he lived on in Doran’s memory as “the man in the moon.” At good friend Soupy Campbell’s wake, Doran’s drunken, debaucherous behavior is met with the horror that the man in the casket is actually a stranger – another one, gone. Gazelle Girl, a crush he watches on her daily run appears one day in the news as the business tycoon’s daughter who committed suicide. The “best night” of his little brother Liam’s life – a movie premiere party the pair crashed together – is the memory he relives while fetching his lifeless body from the lake.

The nostalgia never overwhelms as the work’s trajectory bring us intermittently back to Doran’s not-so-pretty present. Most powerful is a simple moment near the play’s end where Doran’s gaze lingers a little too long at the plastic bag in his hands – one of the only props of the performance, along with a bottle and park bench. “The thing about ‘remember when’ is that it’s not the same as you here and now,” he affirms.

“Man in the Moon” originally premiered in Belfast at West Belfast's Brassneck Theatre, and celebrated its U.S. premiere on Wednesday, September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day. The play is presented as part of the seventh annual Irish Theatre festival - Origin's 1st Irish 2014 - with performances running at Times Square Arts Center.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jenny Thompson

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