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After Luke/When I Was God

Strong work by Gary Gregg anchors Conal Creedon's pair of one-acts about the bonds of family. logo
Gary Gregg and Michael Mellamphy in When I Was God
(© Carol Rosegg)
Gary Gregg delivers a strong performance in two very different roles in Conal Creedon's pair of one-acts, After Luke and When I Was God, now being performed as a double-bill at Irish Repertory Theatre.

The two plays, unevenly directed by Tim Ruddy, are set in Cork, Ireland, and examine the bonds of family. After Luke is a variation on the prodigal son parable (from the Gospel of Luke). Gregg portrays Son, who stayed with his Dadda (Colin Lane) while brother Maneen (Michael Mellamphy) exhausted the money given to him after striking out on his own. Now Maneen is back, wanting to sell the family's land in order to get another fresh start, while Son is keen on keeping things just the way they are. The rivalry between the brothers is emphasized with flashbacks and monologues revealing how they were always at odds, even as children.

Both Dadda and Maneen refer to Son as a half-wit, but Gregg avoids stereotype, instead crafting a portrait of a simple man with simple needs who is perhaps just a little out of step with the pace of those around him. When Son is riled, however, the actor gives his portrayal a dangerous edge, as Son is willing to fight to keep what's his. Neither of the other actors are able to achieve as much depth in their roles. Lane captures Dadda's exasperation in regards to his boys' constant bickering, but doesn't display much beyond that, while Mellamphy pushes too hard, indicating his intentions in a broad, nearly caricatured fashion.

Mellamphy approaches his role in When I Was God similarly, although it comes across even worse as much of the play requires him to annoyingly pretend like he's 10 years old. In the piece, Dino (Mellamphy) is retiring from his position as a referee, and remembering his childhood spent with his father (Gregg), who was obsessed with his son succeeding in sports -- and particularly the game of hurling (an Irish sport similar to field hockey), which resulted in some severe injuries for the boy. Gregg has an authoritative presence, and it's easy to see why Dino was intimidated by his father, who seems to have left the boy with emotional scars to match his physical ones. Even when the playwright reduces him to grunting out responses, Gregg fully inhabits his role, commanding every second he has on stage.

In both plays, Creedon utilizes select repetition of key phrases, lending a lyrical quality to the writing. But despite an engaging story and a few amusing lines, Creedon's observations on father/son dynamics rarely surprise.

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