Off Broadway Reviews
It's summer in Friel's Ballybeg of 1878 and tensions are running high following the murder of Lord Lifford, a despised English landlord. The action opens at the home of the widowed landlord Christopher Gore (an underpowered John Windsor-Cunningham), living in exile from England where his "home place" is Kent. Gore lives at the Lodge with his son David (a sympathetic Ed Malone), housemaid Sally Cavanagh (a saucy Andrea Lynn Green) and their longtime housekeeper, Margaret O'Donnell (the lovely Rachel Pickup), who's won the affections of both father and son. Margaret and David have fallen in love and want to strike out on their own but she's loath to hurt Christopher, a man who's shown her kindness for many years.
Visiting at the Lodge is Christopher's cousin, Dr. Richard Gore (an appropriately irritating Christopher Randolph) and his assistant Perkins (a solid Stephen Pilkington). An anthropologist who's traveling thru Ireland recording the physical characteristics of the locals, Richard's exploitative methods (he takes cranial measurements) and racist hypotheses have incurred the wrath of Sally's beau, Con Doherty (an excellent Johnny Hopkins), and his muscled henchman, Johnny McLoone (a menacing Gordon Tashjian). When Doherty and McLoone demand that Richard and Perkins leave immediately, Christopher is caught in the middle between his cousin, the locals who live on his land and the fate of Lord Lifford whose funeral that morning is still fresh in his memory.
Taking place over the course of a single day, The Home Place also contains a subplot involving Margaret's father, Clement O'Donnell (a convincing Robert Langdon Lloyd), who embarrasses his daughter with his drinking and unpolished manner. Clement is the choirmaster at the nearby church school and we hear snippets of the choir singing throughout the play.
As directed by the Rep's Artistic Director, Charlotte Moore, The Home Place has a difficult time allowing its themes of exile, identity, language and oppression to be explored to their fullest. The main reason for this is the miscasting of Windsor-Cunningham in the pivotal role of Christopher Gore. Lacking both the requisite authority and stage presence, Windsor-Cunningham projects an insecurity at odds with the demands of his character. Christopher drives the play and, though he gets through it, Windsor-Cunningham isn't the engine the piece needs. Pickup does lovely work as the housekeeper Margaret and, as Dr. Richard Gore's assistant, Pilkington is charming. Similarly, in two small supporting turns, both Polly McKie and Logan Riley Bruner feel authentic as locals who "volunteer" to be studied at the risk of humiliation and in hopes of more than just a photograph for their efforts. It's a shame both Hopkins and Tashjian have so little stage time as both of their characters were more interesting than the principals in this competent but unbalanced production.
The Home Place