Thursday, November 06, 2014

Irish Arts Center and Abrons Arts Center Present the American Premiere of "Lippy" by Bush Moukarzel and Dead Centre

Dan Reardon as The Lip Reader
"Lippy" Presented by
The Irish Arts Center
Abrons Arts Center
"Lippy" is a play that redefines the boundaries of theater.  Set in the performance space at the Abrons Arts Center in New York's Lower East Side, this American premiere is presented by the Irish Arts Center.

Allow me to set the stage with this quotation from the Program Notes:

"Fourteen years ago in Leixlip, Co. Kildare, an aunt and three nieces made an extraordinary decision which seemed to defy explanation. They boarded themselves into their home and entered a suicide pact that lasted 40 days.

The mysterious hunger strike is the starting point for a theatrical investigation which is both social and metaphysical. We didn't know these women. We weren't there. We have no idea what they said. This is not their story. Playing with narrative form and discarding the whys and wherefores, 

'Lippy' was widely regarded as one of the most extraordinary works to come out of Ireland last year, from one of the country's most exciting new companies, Dead Centre." 

 The play begins enigmatically as the front of the stage is set up for a post-show discussion of a play that we have not seen that involves a discussion with actor Dan Reardon on techniques of lip reading. I puzzled for a while on why the story of the suicide pact of these Irish women would begin with an apparently unrelated postmortem of a play we have not seen.  And then it struck me.  "Postmortem." Just as an autopsy is an after-the-fact examination of a body looking for evidence of what may have occurred to cause death, so the audience was being asked to piece together from the evidence of the post-show discussion, what must have happened in the play we did not see.  In the same way, the playwright for "Lippy" was only able to guess at what may have happened in the lives and relationships among the suicidal family members from the evidence they left behind - including bags and bags of shredded paper.

The women of the family are depicted interacting with one another in ways that the playwright imagines may have been plausible.  And then a screen descends upon which is projected the image of a large pair of lips.  We as an audience are given the opportunity to lip read along with the amplified voice of a woman reciting a widely discursive monologue - scripted by Mark O'Halloran.  Being asked to read only the woman's lips flies in the face of a truth that Dan Reardon had shared in the prologue section: "In order to properly discern what someone is saying, just looking at the lips is not sufficient.  One must look at the entire face." The message seems to be - told on many levels: "We are trying to tell you a story of what may have happened to these women, but we can only come up with partial answers and guesses because we can not properly read 'the whole face.'"

Joanna Banks, Gina Moxley
Caltronia Ni Mhurchu and Liv O'Donoghue
"Lippy" Presented by
The Irish Arts Center
Abrons Arts Center
The actors are effective in helping to evoke just the right atmosphere in telling a story that may not in fact be the true story.

They are:

  • Bush Moukerzel as The Interviewer 
  • Adam Welsh as Adam the Technician 
  • Dan Reardon as The Lip Reader 
  • Allin Kempthorne as Himself 
  • Joanna Banks as Frances 
  • Gina Moxley as Catherine 
  • Caltronia Ni Mhurchu as Bridg-Ruth 
  • Liv O'Donoghue as Josephine 
 This unique play requires a great deal of work on the part of the audience to figure out what is happening on the stage and then to try to discern what it may mean.  It is hard work worth doing, for all good art is never complete until the beholder adds his or her own meaning and closes the creative loop.

Irish Arts Center Website


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