Does Father Always Know Best? Come Meet ‘Da’ at MCT
By Barbara Mountjoy
Special to the Tribune
Did you know that at an Irish public house lavatory, incoming traffic has the right of way?
This is one of many piece of pithy wisdom and advice shared as, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Meadville Community Theatre brings a small corner of Ireland to light in its production of Da, opening March 12.
The psychologically trying and often difficult relationship between fathers and sons has been the subject of many studies, and this show demonstrates some of the reasons why. Director Audrey Schweitzer leads her cast down a rocky memory lane that begins when professional writer Charlie (Jim Hollerman) comes back to Ireland in 1968 for his father’s funeral.
From the moment he returns home after the service, time becomes fluid for Hollerman. Sometimes he is having words with his father’s ghost, who still persists in aggravating him. Sometimes he’s seven years old (especially appealing!), out with his Da for a walk in the long-ago days. Hollerman is convincing at any age as a man who can’t let go of his past, as much as he might want to sometimes.
Charlie at eighteen (Logan Lilly) is played as a separate character, because at that age, Charlie meets a mentor, Mr. Drumm (Lou Rich), who will become a second father figure. Brash and self-conscious, Lilly gives the audience the performance that shows how hard it is to be a man, when you’re still half a child at heart. Young Charlie is tempered by Drumm over thirteen years of work, and eventually ruins his relationship with his particular and precise employer with a few sharp words.
Charlie’s long suffering adoptive mother, Mag (Cathy Gorman), his best childhood friend Oliver (Dave Neal) and teenage crush Mary Tate (Jayme Jones) round out the influences of his young life. Each demonstrates the cost of a life without choices, and the quest for what others perceive as good, rather than the search for true happiness.
Da, on the other hand (played with a wink and a twinkle in the eye by theatre veteran Phil Shafer), doesn’t do what’s popular or expected, but follows his own way, and in the end is happier than anyone else.
He’s worked gardening for 45 years at the same estate, perfecting his work, growing beautiful roses. The job doesn’t pay the best—in fact, he’s seriously stiffed by his employer’s daughter, Mrs. Prynne (Debbie Ormston)—but it makes him happy. Unlike the precise Drumm, Da lets insults and the opinions of others roll off his back as he goes on his way, even happier if he can rattle someone else’s cage. And he’s so good at it. Shafer’s Da is the personification of the Irish tendency to take each day as it comes and make the best of what God gives.
Just take an umbrella with you when it rains.
Da plays at MCT March 12-13, 19-20, and 26-27 at 8:15 p.m., and March 21 at 2:15 p.m. Adult tickets are $10; Students and Seniors $7.50. Meadville Community Theatre is located in the Oddfellows building at 400 N. Main Street. For more information and reservations, call 333-1773, or see the MCT website at http://www.mctbackstage.com/index.html.
Does Father Always Know Best? Come Meet ‘Da’ at MCT
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