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Theatre Talk: The Ferryman is set in Ireland

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

When the new trend in theatre is to produce an intermission-less-90-minute show, "The Ferryman" at New Village Arts in Carlsbad has taken a step back in time with a 3-act play requiring two intermissions.

In what is now known as the Prebys Theatre housed within the Dea Hurston New Village Arts Center, "The Ferryman" opened to a sellout weekend. It is the first show in the remodeled space.

Kristianne Kurner has much to be proud of honoring her father and founding board president Colonel David C. Kurner. Multitudes of sponsor donations, put to good use, are honored with plaques. All in all, it's a grand looking redesigned space anchored by a new bar. On the other hand, the theatre and stage appear unchanged which I for one am relieved to know the ample leg room is unaltered.

"The Ferryman" title comes from a line in the Iliad: "You are here to keep balance between what is right and wrong, good and evil. You and you alone are the keeper of the deadly sword known as the Ferryman."

Written by Jez Butterworth, "The Ferryman" opened at the Royal Court Theatre in 2017. Critically received, it was the fastest selling play in London's Royal Court Theatre's history as directed by Sam Mendes.

Based on "The Troubles" of Northern Ireland between British Protestants and Irish Catholics, it continues into 1981 when 10 of the 20 incarcerated young Irish Catholic men starved themselves to death accomplishing their goal by drawing international attention to their plight. The 'Hunger Strikes' was the impetus that separated Northern Ireland into a separate state from the Irish mainland.

The magnificent set created by Doug Cumming lifts the audience to the Carney family farm in Derry, Ireland. The interior is handsomely built by Master Carpenter Greg Ertel with appointments by prop master Alyssa Kane and her crew. Their combined efforts are enhanced by costume designers JoJo Siu and Katrina Deroche.

Annelise Salazar's lighting design brings the tabloid to life along with Harper Justus' superb sound design.

However, even with perfect sound, the various attempts at the Irish accent is hard on American ears missing the natural diphthong of Gaelic, like saying "about" but sounding like "a boat." Hopefully dialog coach Grace Delaney and Amanda Doherty are up to the task. Meanwhile, subtitles would be handy.

Still falling under primogeniture of biblical times, when the oldest son inherits everything, the 50 acre family-farm houses a multigenerational family. The Carney family includes two old aunts, Aunt Pat (Grace Delaney) and Aunt Maggie (Dagmar Krause Fields); an aging uncle, Patrick (Antonio TJ Johnson); a widowed sister-in-law, Caitlin Carney (Joy Yvonne Jones), and her son Olsin (Giovanny Diaz De Leon); the parents, Quinn Carney (Thomas Edward Daugherty) and Mary (Kym Pappas); their seven children, James called JJ (Nick Ritz Daugherty), Michael (Ben McLaren), Shena (Juliana Scheding), Nunu (Priya Richard), Mercy (Lucy Zavatterro), Honor (Lena Palke), and baby Bobby (Snow Elizabeth White). Plus, there's a handyman, Tom Kettle (Dallas McLaughlin), and three visiting Carney cousins to help with the harvest, Shane (Layth Haddad), Diarmaid (Levani Korganashvili), and Declan (Bugs Baltzer).

Visitors to the home include Father Horrigan (Daren Scott) and the IRA leader Muldoon (Max Macke) with his bodyguard thugs Frank (Kyle Ryan) and Lawrence (Jacob James).

I'm rating this PG-17 for language, smoking, and overindulgent whiskey drinking done all the way down to "the under-10-year-olds."

"The Ferryman" continues until March 5 at the remodeled Dea Hurston Center in Carlsbad. For tickets to this 3½ hour epic play, contact New Village Arts at 2787 State by calling 760-433-3245 or go to Rated 7 out of 10.

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].


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