3-1/2 Stars (out of 4)
by Melinda Miller, The Buffalo News
There is nothing epic about “Sive,” John B. Keane’s tragic family drama set in a small, rude farmhouse. This is a story of gritty survival, where poverty pushes people to make desperate choices with unconscionable results …
… there also are frequent moments of dark humor, the kind that is particularly Irish and especially enjoyable. And the excellent cast in Irish Classical Theatre Company’s production of the show relishes those moments, savoring Keane’s detail-rich language as they spit it across the stage at one another …
It is the story of an illegitimate orphan named Sive (Amherst High senior Kiana Duggan-Haas), who is raised by her uncle, Mike Glavin, and his wife, Mena, in the house they share with her grandmother. It is not a comfortable existence – their water comes out of a bucket, and the only warmth in the house, physical or emotional, comes from a peat-fueled fire.
… Mena (is) a desperately unhappy woman who is determined to blame others for her rough lot in life. Played with ferocious bite by Aleks Malejs, Mena barks and snaps at her mother-in-law, Nanna (played by Josephine Hogan at her crone-like best), over her affection for smoking and for Sive …
… the matchmaker Thomasheen (Ray Boucher) arrives to propose a deal: He will give the family 200 pounds in exchange for handing Sive over to marry an elderly but rich local farmer – a man old enough to be Sive’s granddad … in the rough landscape of rural Ireland, it smacks of human trafficking.
Boucher is fearless as the greedy advocate for the match, eloquently pointing out the advantages of the “arrangement,” even for Sive, who would be lady of a house … “She’ll live like a queen,” he proclaims.
But Sive loves a local boy, Liam Scuab (earnestly portrayed by Niagara U grad Peter S. Raymond), and they hope to someday marry. Their cause gets unexpected support from a pair of traveling tinkers …
(Gerry) Maher, a Buffalo stage veteran, and (Johnny) Barden, in his first professional show, play delightfully well together. While the elder tinker prophesizes of the dark fates awaiting those who would sell a child, the younger thumps on a bodhran …
David Lundy, fresh from appearing as the trainer in Irish Classical’s “Golden Boy,” is back as Sean Dota, the lecherous farmer who has his eye on Sive. Doddering and eager, this Dota is seemingly unaware that the object of his lust would have any feelings herself about the transaction.
Caught in the middle is Mike Glavin (Patrick Moltane), who laments on how impossible it is to be a good son and good husband in the same house, not to mention trying to do the right thing for his niece. Tragically, despite his moral struggles, he can’t escape the idea that “Money is the best friend a man ever had,” and the die is cast.
The action all takes place in the kitchen of the Glavin home, on an intricate set designed for full freedom of action by Brian Cavanagh. Wardrobe mistress Vivian del Bello and costume designer Bethany Kasperek get credit for the cast’s well-worn and neatly patched outfits, which added to the authenticity that director Vincent O’Neill drew out of his performers.
Strong production of one of Ireland’s most popular plays, a rural tragedy by John B. Keane powered by inescapable poverty, lust and class suffering. Presented by Irish Classical Theare Company in the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St., through Nov. 25. For tickets, go to irishclassical.com. There are post-show talk-backs with the cast on Thursdays and free Guinness for ticket-holders in the lounge after Friday shows.