“a charmer … staged with flair … fine ensemble … pure vintage” – buffalotheatreguide.com

-by Cherie Messore, Monday, April 23, 2018

The grace and elegance of the upper-crust 1930s society- warts and all – is all part of ‘The Awful Truth’ staged by the Irish Classical Theatre Company. Yes, plenty of pricey perfume may hide the unsavory scent of deception, but when the smell is intoxicatingly sweet and pleasant, do we really care?

. . .this rarely produced work is staged with flair and the cast shines.

This show is a charmer. The stage version had a brief Broadway run and later inspired the film starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.  More character driven than the more familiar film, this works well for ICTC’s fine ensemble cast. When Lucy (played by Diane Curley) was married to Norman (Adrian Gatto), she cheated on him with Rufus (Chris Kelly). Shock: she’s a divorcee! Now she’s angling to marry Texas oil baron Daniel Leeson (Eric Rawski) and stern faced mama Mrs. Leeson (Ellen Horst) is suspicious.  She’s heard plenty of gossip. After all she says, “Rumors don’t usually live this long without some basis of fact.” Daniel is a straight speaking earnest fellow after all, a bit of a braggart with new money, and his mother knows deep down that Lucy is no innocent ingénue, with her snappy retorts and distressingly flippant attitude toward marriage. Could she be the real woman for Daniel and the mother of his children? “Our children,” Daniel says solemnly, “are the Americans of tomorrow.”

Cue the machinations as Lucy tries to hang on to her engagement (he’s wealthy, she’s flits under the facade to support her carefree lifestyle) while dealing with authentic matters of heart. Ah, the struggles of the lovely and in demand.

This is what Irish Classical does so well: this rarely produced work is staged with flair and the cast shines. Curley is sweetly sly and cleverly cunning in her role as the scheming Lucy. With a cascade of wavy hair, she reminded me of Rita Hayworth as Gilda. Rawski – as skilled a character actor as any – is full of Texas bravado but his accent is nondescript and wobbly. Gatto is suave as wronged husband Norman Satterly, the epitome of Art Deco debonair. Maura Nolan and Zak Ward are admirable as Josie and Eustace Trent, the best friends who know Lucy’s secrets. Ward perfectly underplays his role against Nolan’s perkiness. Chris Kelly is Rufus, the root of the scandal, and he’s solid as the “other man.” Maria Caruso shows her comic flair as Celeste the maid who also opens the show by displaying the credits on stage on placards, styled with a nostalgic nod to the film. Director Fortunato Pezzimenti knows how to use this stage and house so well. Look around the walls for backlit sculptures suggesting  a city skyline.

The costumes, lighting, and overall tone have the visual “feel” of a black and white film, too. From obvious things (the period furnishings are painted – you guessed it – black and white), to the subtle washes of color (Lucy’s pale peachy blouse in one scene would read as gray scale on the silver screen of yore), the mood is pure vintage. Yes, back to the good ol’ days, when infidelities were whispered and not shouted, and scandals had indignant albeit forgivable memories. Sift beneath the surface of Arthur Richman’s rather shallow plotline to remember that true love sometimes escapes our grasp and yes, even rich oil barons should listen to their mothers.


“Character driven and what characters!” – 4 Buffalos! – Peter Hall, buffalo rising

THE NIGHT ALIVE at Irish Classical Theatre is character driven, and what characters these down at the heels mortals be.

by Peter Hall, March 14, 2018, 7:55 am

THE BASICS: THE NIGHT ALIVE, a dark comedy by Conor McPherson presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, directed by Brian Cavanagh, starring Vincent O’Neill, Brian Mysliwy, Cassie Gorniewicz, Kevin Craig, and Adam Yellen runs through March 25, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 & 7:30, Sundays at 2 at ICTC’s home in the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main Street (853-ICTC). Full service bar. Bar snacks. www.irishclassicaltheatre.com Runtime: 2-1/2 hours with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Not terribly different from Act I of Puccini’s opera LA BOHEME, we meet a down on his luck divorced Dubliner, Tommy, who returns one night to his disheveled “bed sit” with a younger woman, Aimee, all bloodied, whom he has rescued from an altercation, and he cares for her. We then meet his helper on odd jobs (Tommy owns a van you see) “Doc” who is somewhat “delayed” and Maurice, Tommy’s crusty uncle with a heart of gold who owns the house where his nephew rents. Whether or not the playwright Conor McPherson believes in God, he does believe in the devil, who, in the guise of Kenneth, makes a brief appearance.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Opening on March 2, the Irish Classical Theatre was first out of the gate in what has proven to be an extraordinarily rich month of theater at over a dozen venues all across Buffalo. Now, to be sure, some in the audience sitting near me were baffled as to how THE NIGHT ALIVE could be considered part of ICTC’s promised “season of comedy” but I did laugh out loud several times and, as I was taught, if it ends with a wedding, then it’s a comedy. SPOILER ALERT: This does NOT end in a wedding, per se, but it could, it so totally could. One thing’s for sure: you’ll be talking or at least thinking about the ending for weeks after you see this play.

Brian Mysliwy who plays Tommy can be a bit “over the top” for my taste, but Tommy’s life is such a mess that Mysliwy’s crazed style works perfectly here. He’s both self-centered and caring; he’s living on the edge but always interested in what’s next. Mysliwsy’s is one of the great performances this season, on any stage.

Contrasting to crazed, Cassie Gorniewicz’s performances are usually understated and very “normal.” Here, as Aimee she provides a nice balance to Mysliwy, and she’s believable in the way that woman can be more accepting of those circumstances in life that drive men to want to fix things and end up behaving badly. Aimee is no earth mother, but she’s been around the block once or twice and knows how the world works. She’s a mess, too, though, and can cause problems just by being there.

Kevin Craig does a fine job as the brain addled Doc (“that’s short for Brian”) who lives in a world that is constantly about five minutes behind the rest of us. He is very loyal to Tommy. And Vincent O’Neill, as the aged Uncle Maurice, uses his mime training to excellent advantage as the snoopy landlord. Making a brief appearance as the troublemaker Kenneth, Adam Yellen with his boyish face may have been slightly miscast. I like my bad guys on the skinny “lean and hungry” side.

As it always does, a Paul Bostaph set says it all, and once again this set is cleverly designed with a kitchen area in the middle of the stage (built low enough so as not to obscure sight lines) including a sink with a Bostaph signature feature – real running water! And what a mess it all is, with crap strewn everywhere.

And as he always does as Sound Designer, Tom Makar puts you in the scenes and holds you there, ably assisted by Lighting Designer (et. al.) Brian Cavanagh.

If you, as I, were itching for more than drawing room comedies and historic Irish dramas, this should be your cup (albeit a dirty cup cleaned up with a bit of spit and the corner of an undershirt) of tea.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Rating System)
FOUR BUFFALOS (out of five):  Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.


“superb … stunning … quirky, dark, hilarious … excellent” – buffalotheatreguide.com

by Colin Fleming-Stumpf
Published March 6, 2018

The power of a blackbox theatre — particularly a blackbox theatre “in-the-round” (in which the stage is surrounded by seats on all sides) — is the intimacy it creates. If you’ve been to the Irish Classical Theatre before, you’re familiar with the unique experience that is cultivated through a space like this. The audience feels like they have a unique portal into the characters’ souls, and it often feels like they’re a part of the story the actors are creating. Shows that thrive in these venues usually feature small casts, minimal sets pieces, and a few very multi-layered characters telling a moving story.

This description certainly aligns with “The Night Alive”, the award-winning play written by Irish playwright Conor McPherson that recently opened at Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theatre Company (ICTC). The show is quirky, dark, hilarious, complicated, and deeply moving. With a five-person cast and a story that beautifully weaves together a lot of heavy thematic material, it is the perfect pairing of play and performance space.

“The Night Alive” is set in the basement of a house in Dublin which is inhabited by Tommy (Brian Mysliwy), a divorced laborer who lives in squalor and doesn’t seem to mind it. He rents the room from his Uncle Maurice (Vincent O’Neill) who lives upstairs. Tommy’s friend, Doc (Kevin Craig), also sleeps in the room and helps Tommy doing odd jobs with Tommy’s van. Doc isn’t the brightest bulb, but he’s a fiercely loyal friend, and full of ideas and imagination.

One night Tommy rescues a young prostitute called Aimee (Cassie Gorniewicz) from a beating on the street. He brings her home to get her cleaned up and she ends up staying. A tentative friendship develops between Tommy and Aimee and indeed between Aimee and the other men in the house over the following weeks. Trouble crashes into their lives however, when Aimee’s ex-boyfriend/pimp Kenneth (Adam Yellen), comes looking for her.

“The Night Alive” earned Conor McPherson the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play 2013, and it’s no wonder why. The script is a dark, quirky masterpiece that is as funny as it is sorrowful, and the way in which these two seemingly distant emotions are woven together throughout the show is pretty stunning.

ICTC’s production of “The Night Alive” is superb, and its strength lies in the talent of its small cast, who all bring unique and distinct characters to the theatre’s stage. Some particularly great standouts (though the whole cast was outstanding): Vincent O’Neill (who is also ICTC’s Co-Founder and Artistic Director) is a disheveled, crotchety, manic old geezer who delivers constant laughs one minute, and the next minute is giving a heartbreaking monologue about the loss of his wife, and Adam Yellen, who—while only in the show for two scenes—is a terrifying nightmare of a thug.

ICTC’s production of “The Night Alive” is excellent. It will challenge you, make you laugh, and have you contemplating life and death. It might also give you a craving for turnips (you’ll get the joke after you see the show).


“urgency and intrigue … a riveting production” – Michael Rabice, broadwayworld.com

Published March 5, 2018 –

Unhappiness in rural Dublin– Not an altogether unlikely topic for a play. But when Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theatre included Conor McPherson’s THE NIGHT ALIVE as part of their season of comedies, I wondered how it fit the bill. Happily the play about unhappiness somehow morphs from dark comedy to a classic film noir script and ticks all the boxes for a riveting production.

McPherson, best known as the author of THE SEAFARER and THE WEIR, has an uncanny knack for sucking the audience in from the get go. Two characters with totally unknown pasts make a dramatic entrance and engage you immediately with wonder as to who they are and what their relationship may be. The details don’t matter as much as the sense of urgency and intrigue that McPherson creates. A snooping old man named Maurice pokes around a darkened dismal flat then scurries as a middle aged Tommy drags in Aimee, bloodied and beaten in some unknown row. Flickering lights, squalor and seediness are the backdrop for the drama that will unfold.

The brilliant Brian Mysliwy, last seen at ICTC as the harried and hilarious reservationist in FULLY COMMITED, anchors the drama with shocking credibility as Tommy, the nephew of Maurice. Living a miserable life of divorce, a bad job, and no prospects of love, Mysliwy throws himself behind every action, attempting to help everyone around him while unable to truly help himself. Cassie Gorniewicz matches Mysliwy head to head, as the prostitute Aimee who is taken in by Tommy. Gorniewicz oozes a rough helplessness that endears her plight to both Tommy and the audience. Often appearing strung out, she finally relaxes as her relationship with Tommy builds, but her background proves to be too much of a hurdle for both of them.

Kevin Craig helps balance the drama as Doc, Tommy’s friend with the “borderline personality.” Borderline here implies a borderline intelligence versus a personality disorder. His simple thoughts exasperate Tommy but also bring out a fatherly concern for a guy that is not wanted by his family and is happy to live life sleeping in Tommy’s van. Mr. Craig’s portrayal was often heartbreaking in his innocence, bringing a naïve nature to his desire to be included by someone.

Vincent O’Neill gives a powerful performance as the elderly and tottering Maurice. Living a life of darkness after witnessing his own wife’s death, his misery is palpable in body language and gestures. This scrooge of a character is both pitiful and to be pitied. Having raised Tommy when no one else would sheds light on the backstory of both men’s lives and wonders why they both have such little regard for each other.
Adam Yellen is disturbingly menacing as Kenneth, the hooligan boyfriend, aka pimp, of young Aimee. His command of the stage and physical abusiveness brings Act One to a shocking climax, making it clear that McPherson shows no fear of the darker side of life.

Director Brian Cavanagh has paced the production beautifully, allowing for gentler moments to complement the height of the drama. Working with Set Designer Paul Bostaph’s fabulous setting allowed for multiple playing areas– a feat that is not easy for a theatre in the round staging. The dismal flat is full of filth, debris and mismatched furniture. Tommy snacking on dog biscuits and blowing dust out of tea cups paints a picture of the gloom. Cavanagh’s light design is subtle and portending, taking full advantage of the “noir” of the subject.

THE NIGHT ALIVE succeeds in McPherson’s attempt to bring a gritty reality to the stage, never afraid of exposing the raw sides of the common man. The darkness of night is the perfect setting for this dark tale, often played out in the dim recesses of the stage, where shadow reigns and a full blown sunrise never seems to be on the horizon for these sad souls.


4 STARS! – “‘The Night Alive’ Shines with Dark Humor & Vivid Power” – The Buffalo News

by Melinda Miller,
Published March 3, 2018 –

There is a lot to like about Irish Classical Theatre’s production of “The Night Alive,” Conor McPherson’s dark comedy about a clutch of life’s losers trying to make a go of it in modern-day Dublin. McPherson has a sure hand with dialogue and gift for knowing just how much fear and despair he can pile an audience before giving them a much-needed laugh-out-loud release.

And the actors who are bringing McPherson’s work to life make the most of it.

The story is centered on Tommy, a hapless sort of hero … Brian Mysliwy plays him like he has known him all his life. He gives voice to Tommy’s casual profanity like he learned it as his mother’s knee, deftly applying it as punctuation for every moment, as he pushes along just doing the best he can. …

For a good part of the play the only real threat to this drifting existence is Tommy’s uncle and landlord, Maurice, an often drunken widower who interjects himself at inopportune times and knows more than he lets on. Vincent O’Neill plays the old-timer with gleeful relish, not quite hiding a rather decent heart under his gruff demeanor.

In a time when splashy musicals are getting the lion’s share of theatrical attention, McPherson, who is still in his 40s, is coming up with intense and satisfying drama. “The Night Alive” shines with excellent performances, challenging themes and a fair share of humor, including a particularly appreciated gag involving a bag of turnips.

It is what Irish Classical does best.

Read full review @ http://buffalonews.com/2018/03/03/the-night-alive-shines-with-a-dark-humor-and-vivid-power/.

4 stars


“Triumphant … a splendid production”-Michael Rabice, broadwayworld.com

Published January 29, 2018 –

Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theatre continues its season of comedies with a splendid production of W. Somerset Maugham’s THE CONSTANT WIFE. In lesser hands the story of a wife who appears to turn a blind eye to her husband’s infidelities could come across as a dreadfully dated and unbelievable drawing room comedy of 1926. This period in theatrical history allowed love to be proclaimed to the mountains, despite who was in earshot -where a woman’s place was in the home, lest it be thought that her husband was unable to provide for her- where rest cures in far off countries were the panacea to every ailment- and where propriety was tantamount.

Director David Oliver, whose fine direction includes ICTC’s triumph EQUUS, lets the work unfold without letting it run the risk of becoming a melodramatic museum piece. The stock characters are all there– the apparent innocent wife, a philandering husband, the perky other woman, the unsympathetic mother-in-law, the acerbic sister, and a head over heels in love former boyfriend. They all encircle the constant wife, aptly named Constance, who must decide how to cope with the lot in life that she has been dealt. Similarities abound to Clare Boothe Luce’s 1936 play THE WOMEN, where a bevy of women all have their own ideas on how to deal with a man’s infidelities.

ICTC favorite Kate LoConti revels in the juicy role of Constance and is a joy to watch. Her coyness and quick thinking wit are reminiscent of the plucky roles inhabited by a young, no nonsense Katherine Hepburn. What at first comes off as a naive scorned wife morphs through Constance’s own brilliant calculations to a wife who is in complete control of her difficult situation. LoConti’s comfort in the role is palpable, as she laughs, struts and ultimately declares that her own sexual freedom is paramount and the double standard applied to the sexes is something she is not prepared to accept.

Surrounded by her family at the most inopportune times allows comic bon mots to spew from Josephine Hogan as her mother, Mrs. Culver. Born in the Victorian era, she is willing to accept male infidelities as commonplace as long as the woman is well cared for and well dressed. Ms. Hogan is having a grand time, lounging about, eating chocolates and proclaiming ” I have my own ideas about marriage. If a man neglects his wife it’s her own fault, and if he’s systematically unfaithful to her in nine cases out of ten she only has herself to blame.”

Meanwhile younger sister Martha (played by the spunky Kristin Bentley) seethes watching her sister being played the fool. Ms. Bentley more than holds her own and dominates scenes were she extols how a “modern woman” should be handling Constance’s situation.

Kelsey Mogensen is utterly charming as the dumb blonde other woman, Marie-Louise. Maugham’s twist here is that she also is Constance’s best friend. When LoConti and Mogensen are paired there is so much cleverness in the the writing that the comedy in their plight is sublime. Meanwhile Eric Michael Rawski, as the husband Dr. John Middleton, plays the cheater with broad brush strokes that sometimes border on camp. His facial expressions and incredulity are often scene stealing as the details of his affair are made public.

The company is rounded out with the the charming Kristen Tripp Kelley as Constance’s friend Barbara who empowers her to join the work force. Jon May does well as the simpering love struck former boyfriend Bernard, while Elliot Fox plays against type and elicits great laughs as Marie-Louise’s suspicious husband, Mortimer.

Set designer David Dwyer has chosen lovely pieces of furniture to evoke the period, complemented by fine background musical choices. Unfortunately, not every detail has been given such care. Ms. LoConti’s entrance costume and hair bordered on disastrous, as she wore a faded ill fitting dress, little make up and badly styled hair. As the titular character, whose glamorous appearance is commented upon in the script, she deserved better, and given the fine acting and other high production values it is time for ICTC to beef up their resources. Period pieces call for period fashions and given the audience’s close proximity to the actors, such details do not go unnoticed.

It’s not often that we get to see plays from the early 20th century play out as comically convincing as this production of THE CONSTANT WIFE. Under Mr. Oliver’s thoughtful direction Constance takes her unfortunate “me too” predicament and triumphs as she has the last laugh.

THE CONSTANT WIFE plays at Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theatre through February 11, 2018. Contact irishclassical.com for more information.

 


3-1/2 STARS! “‘The Constant Wife’ is a constant pleasure” – The Buffalo News

By Colin Dabkowski, The Buffalo News  | Published 7:00 a.m. January 24, 2018

Constance Middleton is one cool customer.

She takes a liberal view of infidelity.  She blithely compares the notion of sex with her husband to eating cold mutton. And while she certainly thinks men are sweet, she also believes that it would be “absurd to take them seriously.”

In the dim light of the Andrews Theatre, where David Oliver’s marvelous production of “The Constant Wife” is running through Feb. 11, it’s possible to detect many female heads nodding in agreement.

As Kate LoConti delivers W. Somerset Maugham’s breezy and blunt observations about the hopelessness of the marriage contract in the face of human nature, it feels as fresh as a Dan Savage column.

Here, straight from Maugham’s pointed pen and the mouth of the remarkable Kate LoConti as Constance, is yet more evidence of how little American society has progressed since Ethel Barrymore played the role of Constance in 1926 …

LoConti, who has turned in fine performances in the recent Irish Classical Theatre Company productions “Design for Living” and “The Winslow Boy” nearly outshines the material. She is effervescent …

It’s difficult to say precisely what makes LoConti’s stage presence so compelling, but it has something to do with her ability to appear both unruffled and utterly engaged with the life of her own mind. Both Barrymore and Buffalo’s Katharine Cornell had great success (if mixed reviews) with their appearances as Constance, and it seems clear that LoConti can hold her own in their company.

Read full review here.


“smart banter, sassy wit … funny & empowering”- buffalotheatreguide

by Cherie Messore, buffalotheatreguide.com,
Published January 22, 2018

Back in 1926 – when women’s suffrage was a recent memory in the UK as well as the US –  there was Constance Middleton. Strong, savvy, sly, and she’s “The Constant Wife”  in W. Somerset Maugham’s comedy of manners presented now through February 11  at the Irish Classical Theatre Company.

. . .Maugham may have penned this “The Constant Wife” nearly a century ago, but the message and inspiration are more relevant today than ever:  strong women aren’t fooled by weak men.

Constance, beautifully portrayed by Kate LoConti, has it all: a lovely home, a place in society, a doctor for a husband, one pragmatic friend, one perky friend, and a mother and younger sister who are there to keep her grounded and alert…or at least that’s what they think. She also has – gasp! – a philandering husband. And the object of his affection is – gasp encore! – her perky friend. Even more delicious is the attention of a long-ago suitor who arrives on her doorstep at a propitious moment.

What unfolds is a funny and  (strangely, wonderfully) empowering evening as Constance surprises everyone but herself as she charts brave new paths through old society. There’s plenty of smart banter, sassy wit, and twisted social mores here. All good.

LoConti as Constance is grand: she’s strong and determined and elegant. Josephine Hogan is her mother Mrs. Culver who –not unlike women of her generation – accepts that yes, men do stray.  And women are meant to tolerate it as the natural course. Even her definition of true love (“could you use his toothbrush?”) brings a shudder.

Younger sister Martha is indignant with all this, and wants to inform her sister. Kristin Bentley plays this to the hilt: she’s outraged with a current of comeuppance underneath it. Bentley as Martha is solid, if a bit twitchy, as she tries to understand her mother’s tolerance and her sister’s cool grace with all this. ICTC mainstay Kristen Tripp Kelley is the pragmatic friend, Barbara, owner of a successful interior design company who offers Constance work, wisely knowing that financial independence is the one thing Constance’s marriage can’t buy.

It’s Kelsey Mogensen as Marie-Louise Durham, the “greatest friend” and other woman, who is all fresh charm and appeal. She dazzles as the younger woman, with bobbed bouncy curls, shorter flouncy dresses, and a chirpy delight in life’s little secrets. Even her despair at being found out is exuberant and a joy to watch.

In his first appearance on this stage, Jon May is irresistible as the suave and debonair old beau Bernard.  Does Constance love him or is she merely relieved to know another man finds her appealing? Eric Michael Rawski lies and harrumphs his way along as two-timing Dr. Middleton in fine stoic style. Elliot Fox is a stitch as wronged husband Moritmer: he appears on stage all hellfire and brimstone, swiftly bowing to Constance’s insistence that he just can’t be right in his assessment.

David Dwyer’s sparse set depicts the Middleton’s stately home perfectly: I loved the ironically empty picture frames that suggest the presence of walls, and the changing vases of flowers that tick down the passage of time.

Maugham may have penned this “The Constant Wife” nearly a century ago, but the message and inspiration are more relevant today than ever:  strong women aren’t fooled by weak men.  “There is only one freedom that’s important, and it’s economic freedom,” Constance learns. Between the lines, there’s plenty of hearty laughs here, too.

Running Time: 2 Hours with a 10-Minute intermission.

 

 

 


Update: the broadwayworld.com Regional Awards!

UPDATE:  We are pleased to announce that Adriano Gatto was selected as Best Actor in a Play for his performance in ICTC’s “Design for Living” in the broadwayworld.com Regional Awards.  Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!  Click here to see the complete list of winners.

It’s an abundance of riches for ICTC in the Broadwayworld.com Regional Awards!  Congratulations to all ICTC’s nominees:
Best Actor in a Play
Adriano Gatto – “Design for Living”
Matt Witten – “The Winslow Boy”
P.J. Tighe – “Equus” 
Robert Rutland – “The Winslow Boy”
Best Actress in a Play
Kate LoConti – “Design for Living”
Kristen Tripp Kelley – “The Seedbed”
Best Director of a Play
David Oliver – “Equus”
Katie Mallinson – “Design for Living”
Best Play
“Equus”
“The Seedbed””
“The Winslow Boy”


“‘Minding Frankie’ is a feel-good, heartwarming, laugh through the tears holiday treat at ICTC”

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.