The walls are robin-egg blue and a little on the dingy side. The ground-level windows are inexpensive stained glass. Where else could we be but the basement of a church somewhere in America? Be warned though. The language coming from this particular house of worship, the setting of Martin Casella’s sitcom-like The Irish Curse, now at the SoHo Playhouse, is not your standard-issue potluck supper repartee.
Indeed, this Brooklyn church provides a home for a Catholic support group for men who suffer from physical inadequacy issues. They’re all Irish or Irish-American — the phrase “The Irish Curse” apparently refers to a stereotypical belief that the genitalia of many Irish men don’t quite measure up — and each attendee has his own psychological issues to deal with. Fotunately, director Matt Lenz and his impressive cast nonetheless make the most of this none-too- subtle and often contrived material.
Casella, whether he admits it or not, seems to be indulging in stereotypes with his characters, who include Joseph, an uptight former Southerner separated from his wife (Dan Butler); Steven, a gay undercover cop with a sex addiction (Austin Peck); Kieran, a young, distraught immigrant from the Emerald Isle (Roderick Hill); Rick, a young man in training to be a sports doctor (Brian Leahy); and Father Kevin Shaunessy, a middle-aged priest with secrets of his own (Scott Jaeck), who moderates the group.
Probably the closest that the script comes to adding an extra layer of depth is a monologue that Shaunessy delivers about the first and last time he ever fell in love. The disappointment he carried from being rejected by that young woman profoundly informed his career path. But the peace that he’s achieved since then is inspiring.
Unfortunately, there is no universal meaning in the work. Moreover, as self-help plays go, The Irish Curse has neither the heart-rending character sketches of William Inge’s Come Back Little Sheba nor the stirring melodies of Steve Schalchlin’s musical, The Last Session to recommend it. Instead, one has to settle for some laughs and learning more than you ever wanted to know — regardless of your circumstances — about the realities of small penises in today’s world.