© 2023
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bob Goepfert Reviews "A Couple of Blaguards" At Proctors

“A Couple of Blaguards” can be termed an Irish reminiscence.   The work that continues at the small G.E. Theatre at Proctors through Sunday concerns two brothers who tell about their upbringing during the 1930s in Limerick, Ireland and their eventual assimilation into American culture as émigrés in the 1950s.

Indeed, when the show was first presented in 1985, you might have left the theater thinking how nice these two high-spirited brothers, well into in their fifties. finally overcame both hardship and over-indulgent life-styles to get their lives together.  The feeling would have been, they might yet make something of themselves.

Now almost 30 years later, that assumption would have been correct.  The two brothers are Frank McCourt who would later win the Pulitzer Prize for his novel “Angela’s Ashes,” and his brother Malachy, a bigger than life personality who would write his own memoir “A Monk Swimming.”  

Seen through today’s lens, the piece is more a coming of age play than it is a dual biography.  In a sense, “A Couple of Blaguards” can be viewed as a prequel, because both men have publically stated this co-authored play was their motivation to create individual works detailing their lives.

It’s a miracle that the theatrical experience is so much fun as it describes two young men who grew up in psychologically terrifying circumstances.  Their salvation was having a sense of humor that permitted them to see the dysfunction of others rather than buying into a social structure that encouraged failure.

The first act describes Limerick, and the world in which they grew up.  Their lives were dominated by the teachings of the Catholic Church and enforced by a grandmother and mother who were almost medieval in the way faith, tradition and superstition ruled their lives. 

Other authority figures reinforced the smallness of that world.   There is a fire-and-brimstone spouting Jesuit priest who describes hell with savage images that are so grotesque as to be comical. There is a mayor who claims half the terrible lies told about him are untrue.  And there are the residents who are as eccentric as they are narrow-minded – like the pair of comical biddies who delight in their outrageous gossip.

In this work the incidents are specific to growing up in rural Ireland.  But they are universal in describing the ills of rigid thinking reinforced by harsh discipline.  

The second act takes place in more liberal surroundings – New York City in the 1950s and 60s.  It was an environment that encouraged the young men to indulge in Gomorrah-like pleasures.  Indeed, both men spent years indulging in an excess of wine, women and song, which resulted in them being fired from even the most menial of jobs.

Thanks to their ebullient personalities the pair eventually finds modest success and stability in the workplace.  While in the U.S, army Frank meets a female librarian who connects the pleasures of reading with the pleasures of the flesh and gives him a life-long appetite for both.  He talks his way into NYU on the GI bill and after graduation becomes a school teacher in the New York City public school system.

The more outgoing Malachy depends on his personality to support his appetite for a good time.   He becomes the proprietor of a popular saloon, hosts a controversial radio talk show and eventually, because of his aversion to hard work, becomes a stage actor.

In performance, Howard Platt and Jarlath Conroy capture the essence of the men as they create individuals who enjoy life to the fullest.  The actor’s each have a great sense of comic timing and a gift for story-telling. And they can even carry a tune as the dialogue is often broken up with a song.

Though the show is always pleasant, there are times when the pair seem to be on auto-pilot. There is little sense of spontaneity in the performances but the energy level is always high.  But what is lacking in freshness is compensated for by an abundance of charm.

“A Couple of Blaguards” is a nice piece of theater filled with great stories, love and laughter.  And you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy it. 

Performances 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday.  346-6204.   proctors.com

Bob Goepfert is the Arts Editor for the Troy Record.



The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Related Content