On a warm weekend in February, with no storms to urge huddling at home, Omaha was blessed with theatrical riches the likes of which we haven’t seen in years.
I’ve written with enthusiasm about Frost/Nixon at the Blue Barn and the powerful musical Caroline, or Change at the Omaha Community Playhouse, and didn’t catch up with worthy shows at Creighton and UNO or in Bellevue. That left an evening open to revisit the Brigit St. Brigit company at the renovated 40th Street Theatre on Hamilton.
Sive, Brigit’s latest Irish play, was a special pleasure with renewed appreciation for such proven talents as Delaney Driscoll, MaryBeth Adams, Eric Griffith and Scott Working directed by Cathy M.W. Kurz. If you’ve never experienced what this company can create, you owe yourself a trip to this lovingly restored theater. Brigit offers a raw, primitive, look at peasant life in Ireland, a conflict that causes a grandmother (Adams) to plead, “How can I go easy when my granddaughter is for sale like an animal?”
And the rest of the cast is not outshined by those veterans of so many Brigit triumphs. Kelsi Weston as the title’s 18-year-old innocent wins the empathy of the audience with an appropriately dazed performance as the object of a matchmaker’s plot to wed her to a prosperous aging farmer.
The manipulative matchmaker is a classic Irish character as played by the well-seasoned Wes Clowers. His counter-connivers, Working and Jackson Cottrell as traveling tinkers, command the stage whenever they enter with drum and floor-pounding walking stick. Read the program piece from the Abbey Theatre and you’ll find it easy to understand why the Irish crowds cheered whenever that pair entered.
It’s also easy to be charmed by the setting, a kitchen in an old farmhouse, where the play opens with Nanna (Adams) smoking a pipe by the fireplace. The pipe quickly disappears when her daughter-in-law Mean (Driscoll) arrives and complains that she smells tobacco smoke.
Mena is the main villain, anxious to get rid of both her mother-in-law and Sive, her husband’s orphaned niece.
Griffith wants to protect the niece from Mena’s plan, but he’s too wishy-washy to stand in the way of Mena and the matchmaker, both driven by money from the aging farmer. Gordon Spencer, whose byline often appears on Reader reviews, plays the farmer, Sean Dota, whose name seems short for dotage or dotard, a highly unlikely match for Sive.
She loves Liam Scuab, whose relationship to the man who abandoned Sive’s mother makes him unacceptable to her Uncle Mike (Griffith). Qadir Khan’s convincing sincerity in pursuit of Sive works to heighten rooting for their hopes.
I won’t spoil the outcome but settle here for promising that it makes a powerful climactic impact as fittingly melodramatic as the events that precede it.
Director Kurz, whose devotion to the Irish playwrights is legendary, has loved this John B. Keane drama for a long time, and now she’s sharing it with a grateful audience.
Sive runs through March 6, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, by the Brigit St. Brigit Theatre at the 40th Street Theatre, 4008 Hamilton St. Tickets are $25, $20 seniors, students and military, available at bsbtheatre.com or by calling 402.502.4910.