by John B. Keane
Directed by Cathy Kurz
February 17 - March 5, 2023
First Central Congregational Church
Brigit Saint Brigit marks its 30th anniversary celebration of Irish culture with John B. Keane's gripping and controversial play The Field, an uncompromising tale that contrasts the excruciating tenderness felt by the ferocious Bull McCabe for a field that has nurtured his family for generations, with the calculated brutality he's willing to wield against anyone he sees as--justly or not--threatening "his" land.
" ...the primitive feeling of these people ...is that a man will not do wrong unless he is under the influence of a passion which is as irresponsible as a storm of the sea." (J. M. Synge)
It's 1965 in County Kerry, so the threat comes not from an outside invader, but from another villager, the widow Butler who owns the few fertile acres and needs to sell to survive. Its passage to the river makes it indispensable. Bull needs that field. But he can't afford to pay the asking price which is what it's worth.
Yet that field, he knows in his bones, is his. His family's blood and sweat and tending have made it his. With ferocity and a dangerous reputation, he forces a rigged auction in which he will be the only bidder. But then, enter an outsider. William Dee is a man who can afford to pay the higher price, an Irish expat, happy to live in Britain, and one who believes in the primacy of the law, contracts, and the authorities that will protect him.
He doesn't realize he's entered a world not of manmade law but of passion and elemental force.
The explosive intrigue, violence, investigation, and clerical condemnation that follow roil the small-town community: each person struggles in a net of guilt, denial, and self-preservation. Keane's is a plot and examination of character that rivets.
Yet slightly beneath the playwright's acute depiction of the events and reactions of specific characters in a specific place and time runs a haunting undertone that's without time or place. How much do the facts win out over our comfort in being a member of the tribe? How do we recognize the ages-old, whispered myths that so infuse and color our judgement? And how can we know which ones have value?
In Bull McCabe, John B. has cunningly created a character whose selfishness and brutality repel, while his passion and tenderness for the land draw us in. Such human contradiction is the stuff of the play's essential power.
Since its debut at Dublin's Olympia Theatre in 1965, it's become one of the best-loved plays in Ireland and has had countless, regular revivals, including multiple times at Dublin's Abbey, Galway's Druid and in the US on Bdwy and New York's Irish Rep. It was also the basis for the popular American film of the same name, featuring Richard Harris as the Bull McCabe.
BSB's production of The Field is directed by Cathy Kurz, stage managed by Sabrina Kinney, with a cast led by Kevin Barrett, supported by Shane Staiger, Eric Griffith, Scott Working, Jessica Johnson, Austin Wright, Charleen Willoughby, Dennis Stessman, Michael Lyon, Brent Spencer, Steve Miller, and Ryan Federico.
"Keane draws a portrait of rural life in Ireland in the mid-20th century that is both loving and damning, sorrowful and censorious. ...cowardice and an easy accommodation with brutality sit alongside a robust humor, loyalty to clan and class, and a fierce love of the land." (New York Times)
"Even after 50 years, John B Keane’s THE FIELD has lost none of its relevance, compelling power or dark humour... the themes are timeless and could be happening in any community, in any country in the world at any time." (Irish Rep)
"THE FIELD is a fierce and tender study of the love a man can have for land and the ruthless lengths he will go to in order to obtain the object of his desire." (Irish Mirror)
“THE FIELD is superb: a gripping story, sharply and tautly staged... spellbinding... ." (NY Theatre)
"THE FIELD... nuanced and rich, an uncannily engaging script." (Time Out NY)