By the Bog of Cats Marina Carr
Reviewed by Terry Boyle
Jeff-recommended By the Bog of Cats extends to April 15
Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm
Tickets are $28 for Thursday or Sunday, $32 for Friday or Saturday.
The Artistic Home Theatre
1376 W. Grand Avenue, Chicago
tickets: 312/811-4111 or go to http://www.theartistichome.org/
Accessible via the CTA #65 Grand bus and the Blue Line.
It is something special to see a production of one of the best plays to come out of Ireland in the last few decades. Carr’s epic tale comes alive in this Artistic Home production. The re-telling of Medea, Irish style, catches the very essence of the struggle of masculine materialism and feminine mysticism. Hester Swane, the outsider, is an extremely complex individual. Abandoned as a child, she pines after the mother; waiting for decades for a re-uniting that will never happen. Kristen Collins, as Hester, twists and turns through an elaborate labyrinth of emotional highs and lows with conviction. A woman fated with tragic hubris, Hester is no victim. Carr’s character demands much from any actor, and Collins delivers a magnificent performance.
‘Artistic Home’s home mission is to create theatre and film that explores and celebrates the truth within us.’ And, in choosing this work by Carr they have hit on sublime script that takes us into the heart of the bog and into a world that exposes the black and white lies we tell ourselves. Amid the sodden, spongy, land; with its mysterious myriad of ghosts and fantastic tales, the secret desires of murder, lust, avarice and jealousy parade before us like a host of unforgiven deadly sins. While the dark seated emotions that stir within each of us are exaggerated for dramatic effect, they are rendered to us sympathetically in the person of Hester.
The ‘truth’ of this play is that human contradiction can never be fully resolved in any satisfactory way. We are seldom the people we believe ourselves to be. The ‘unmotherly love’ of Hester and her mother, Josie (a common facet of Carr’s work) is not as unusual as we would like to believe. Nor are civilized people incapable of making grave and dangerous mistakes. The settled world of the Cassidy’s is more culpable for its pretensions, greed, and lust for power than the naked, transparent, uncouth manners of outsiders Catwoman and Hester. Fr. Willow puts it well when he says about those of his parish; ‘They never listened to me, sure they even lie in the Confession box.’
Artistic Home have struck fool’s gold with this play. It has no material value, but it gives us insight into ourselves, if we let it, and that’s the acid test of true art. We must commend this theatre for having the courage to perform a work that exposes the glitter in our self-satisfied world for not being the genuine article. The Xavier Cassidy of Carr’s play is alive and well, peddling lies via twitter, and social media. If you do not fear the ‘truth’, go see this wonderful work. It will unsettle you in the best possible way.