By William Wolf

THE SHAUGHRAUN  Send This Review to a Friend

Director Charlotte Moore is a wonder woman. I have never seen so much action on her tiny Irish Repertory Theatre stage as she packs into her current revival of Don Boucicault’s endearing “The Shaughraun.” With rapid-fire pacing and spirited performances by a large cast, and even appearances by a cute dog named Sadie, Moore highlights the play’s humor, élan and its greater meaning in the tradition of Irish revolutionary fervor.

The production thrives on its characterizations against the background of the secret Fenian uprising in Ireland in 1866. (“The Shaughraun” was first performed in New York, in 1874. The Irish Repertory Theatre staged it previously in a 1998 revival.) The plot is a complex one involving resistance, love, a British officer, an attempt to seize property, escape, a chase, henchmen and heroes, and the vagabond who gives the play its title. It adds up to action galore.

Kevin O’Donnell is the good-looking Irish hero, Robert Ffolliott, who has been sentenced as a Fenian. Katie Fabel is charming as the pretty Arte O’Neal. She and Ffolliott are very much in love. Mark Shanahan is delightful as the young English officer, Captain Harry Molineux, who is in command of his post at Ballyraggett, County Sligo. He becomes smitten with Allison Jean White as Claire Ffolliott and there is much fun in their pairing.

Patrick Fitzgerald does plenty of amusing scene-stealing as the colorful Conn, the Shaughraun, and it falls to him to rise to the occasion as a hero trying to rescue Robert and thwart the efforts of the evil police agent Harvey Duff (Tim Ruddy) and his henchmen. There’s an uproariously funny scene when a wake is being held for Conn, presumed dead, and he manages to take a swig from a bottle of whiskey while others are loudly mourning him.

I never tire of seeing Terry Donnelly in Irish Rep productions, and here she is especially good as Conn’s mother, Mrs. O’Kelly.

One marvels at the use of the tidy set that Klara Zieglerova has designed. There is great sleight of hand when the little building center stage is used as a jail but is turned around so escapees on the roof are now seen on the outside. The limited set facilities are used ingeniously throughout.

Director Moore has outdone herself with this production, a rousing, entertaining show that doesn’t let up until everything is neatly in place and the cast gets the ovation it thoroughly deserves. At the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, $55-$65. Phone: 212-727-2737.


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