Review by Peter Hall, Buffalo Rising
November 15, 2017
THE BASICS: MINDING FRANKIE, a play by Shay Linehan [say LIN-uh-han] adapted from the novel by Maeve Binchy, presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, directed by Chris Kelly, a “two-hander” starring Kristen Tripp Kelley and Christian Brandjes in a variety of roles, runs through November 26, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 & 7:30 and Sundays at 2 at the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main Street (853-ICTC). Full service bar in the “Chris O’Neill lounge”www.irishclassicaltheatre.com Runtime: a touch over two hours with one intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Noel Lynch is a Dublin drunk barely holding on to his job as a clerk in a building materials warehouse when he gets a call to go to the hospital to see Stella, a woman he spent a few days with at an outdoor music festival. Puzzled, he shows up, and it turns out she has cancer, she’s dying, and she’s pregnant, and he’s the father. She has chosen him to take care of (“mind”) the soon-to-be-born daughter “Frankie.” At first, reluctantly, but then fiercely, he agrees. Meanwhile, the embittered spinster social worker, Moira Tierney, wants Frankie to be adopted by responsible friends of hers who will then make Moira Frankie’s godmother. Complications ensue in this “laugh through the tears” Irish comedy.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Right from the start this play is a winner. Now, just as it takes a village, or at least a Dublin street, to raise a child, it takes as many to produce a show, so singling anyone out is not to diminish any other element. Having said that, Kristen Tripp Kelley, who always delivers a professional performance, is on a whole other level here. Seamlessly moving from portrayals of the dying Stella to the uptight Moira, and others in-between as needed (including wonderful moments as Noel’s dad, and later as Malachi, Noel’s AA sponsor) Kelley’s acting chops get a workout and she’s up for it. Oh yes; yes she is. Christian Brandjes plays the drunk, Noel, and many other characters, too, so ably that having only two actors was enough for me.
A lot of ICTC’s shows are a bit gritty, the people are mean and do not seek redemption, and the laughs and tears are hard won, often leaving me wondering: “Could we please just have a nice play that tugs at the heartstrings and lets us walk out of the theater feeling good about the world?” Well, I got my wish. That play is called MINDING FRANKIE.