Pat Kinevane moves with a curious beauty in his solo play, Silent, at the Irish Arts Center. Presented by Fishamble as part of the 1st Irish festival, this rambling yet stylishly enacted monologue features sustained stretches in which the writer/performer says nothing at all, but his non-verbal signals are eloquent in and of themselves.
Kinevane plays Tino McGoldrig, named after Rudolph Valentino, because the character's grandmother loved silent films and this famous star, in particular. Tino is a homeless alcoholic with a history of mental illness, but he wasn't always so. He is haunted by memories of his brother Pearse, a gay man who committed suicide in the 1980s after being outed and shamed in the Irish seaport town of Cobh, where the siblings grew up.
Tino quite obviously suffers from depression and a recurring gag involving a mental health hotline is a darkly comic reminder of his precarious state of mind. Guilt also plays a part in the character's downtrodden circumstances, as Tino feels he could have – and should have – done more to help his brother.
The story that Kinevane unfolds is certainly tragic, but the overall arc of the tale is not particularly illuminating and at times it comes across as monotonous. And despite a helpful glossary of Irish terms provided in the program, there are sections that American audiences may find a bit hard to follow.
Still, Kinevane's exquisitely detailed physical performance helps make up for any deficiencies in the script. He has a captivating stage presence, and while the actor doesn't possess a typical dancer's body, he nevertheless moves with a gracefulness that belies his form. Additionally, his facial contortions can be striking in their expressiveness – unleashing the pain, anger, and regret that Tino feels.
Scattered throughout the narrative are sequences meant to mimic silent movies, with Tino recalling Pearse's several failed attempts at suicide, as well as his brother's final, fatal success. A voiceover describes the circumstances of each of these, while Kinevane manically enacts all of the characters in the tales, sometimes lip-synching to the words of the pre-recorded soundtrack.
Composer and sound designer Denis Clohessy deserves praise for the ways these segments are integrated into the show as a whole. The lighting design by Kinevane and Jim Culleton – which uses side lighting and stark white light to good effect – also adds greatly to the ambience of the piece.