Entertainment, Penn Quarter, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Johnny Meister + The Stitch

Chris Dinolfo and Rex Daugherty in Solas Nua's production of "Johnny Meister and The Stitch" Photo credit: Aoife Mckenna

The “black box” theater is a tricky environment. Actors and audience, being so close to one another in a tight setting, enter into a kind of silent agreement – we see them sweat, they hear us breathe. Actually, it’s a bit like a date. We start out eager for it all to go well, maybe laughing a little too hard, being charmed. But it can end awkwardly. Or go brilliantly.

Solas Nua has the black box date down. In a tiny square nestled in the Flashpoint Gallery (properly known as the Flashpoint Mead Theatre Lab), they keep things sparse and simple, focusing on brutally provocative plays featuring actors who relish the meat of contemporary Irish drama. It works. I’ve yet to see a lazy or self-indulgent piece performed here (last year’s startling Disco Pigs was the first play in a long time to punch me in the gut so hard I cried).

On a given performance of Johnny Meister + The Stitch, the immediacy of live theater is strongly evident as you watch the beads of sweat slowly trickle down Chris Dinolfo’s face as he stands (briefly, it’s a fast clip) lit by long flourescent bulbs. Or the dangerous crackle of Rex Daugherty’s eyes as he makes momentary eye contact with an audience member. This is the thrill of the black box theater, and it’s highlighted by this American premiere of Rosemary Jenkinson’s play about two rough Belfast boys and one wild night.

Continue reading

The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Disco Pigs

Madeleine Carr and Rex Daugherty in Solas Nua's "Disco Pigs." Photo credit: Dan Brick

Madeleine Carr and Rex Daugherty in Solas Nua's "Disco Pigs." Photo credit: Dan Brick

The joy of being so entwined you can finish each other’s thoughts… the pain when those thoughts become dissonant.

For one hour in a small black box theater, Madeleine Carr and Rex Daugherty command your attention with these extreme emotions, in Solas Nua‘s production of “Disco Pigs.” It’s rare that I cry at the theater – having a drama background sadly numbs your reactions sometimes – but this was such a visceral experience I found myself deeply moved. Or perhaps it hit me on a profoundly personal level. Whatever the case, I urge you to spend the hour with them.

Enda Walsh’s play is densely verbal and the Irish accents are thick. This means for the first five minutes or so your brain is processing fast and wild, just like the characters. Pig and Runt are born at the same time at the same hospital and connected by the strong bond of outcasts. They celebrate their seventeenth birthday by terrorizing Cork (which they call “Pork,” snorting and eating like little pigs), their parents, pub denizens and disco dancers – until slowly they become terrorized themselves, by new emotions and challenges to their bond. Continue reading