By William Wolf

THE QUARE LAND  Send This Review to a Friend

Awards nominators looking for outstanding male performances should get to the Irish Repertory Theatre to catch the hilarious Peter Maloney as a sharp-tongued, continuously prattling old recluse who is also sly when he learns someone wants something of his and is willing to pay dearly for it.

Playwright John McManus has a devilish sense of humor and his nutty play “The Quare Land,” set in 2012 in a County Cavan, Ireland, farmhouse, is a barrel of laughs, thanks both to his outrageously funny lines and Maloney’s canny performance that never lets up. He plays Hugh Pugh, who owns lots of land and only several cows, keeps to himself and never reads his mail, piled up through the years.

When we meet him he is soaking in his grimy-looking bathtub in his dilapidated bathroom that indicates the ramshackle condition of his farm house. We learn that he hasn’t taken a bath in four years, which leaves a lot of scrubbing to do. He has a Rube Goldberg-like contraption that leads to his filthy toilet and lifts bottles of beer cooling inside it, then delivers it to him in his bath, which he never leaves.

The plot that the author has concocted involves Rob McNulty, a real estate promoter, marvelously played by Rufus Collins with mounting frustration and increasing incredulity with respect to Pugh. McNulty arrives at the farm unannounced with the mission of buying land that Pugh doesn’t even know he owns so that a nine-hole golf course can be expanded into 18 holes and fit in with a luxury development. The land was left to Pugh as a way of apologizing by a man who once robbed him and then made good in America. How would Pugh know this if he never opens his mail?

Pugh barely lets McNulty get a word in edgewise as he rambles on with uproariously funny dialogue and demeanor, including barbs about how much Pugh hates his brother. When McNulty finally can break in to get down to what he wants, and Pugh realizes the urgency of the project, he becomes a wily negotiator with ever-increasing financial demands beyond what is reasonable.

Maloney is amazing as words and thoughts pour out of him throughout the play, and also conniving as he humbles his financial suitor even to the point of clipping Pugh’s toenails. Director Ciarán O’Reilly keeps the pace brisk and the monologue and dialogue rapidly confrontational, with excellent comic as well as dramatic timing. I’m not sure about the playwright’s electrifying ending, but by then we’ve already had more than enough enjoyment, and if there is a message contained in the resolution, it hardly matters. At the Irish Repertory Theatre, temporarily at the RD2 Theatre, 103 East 15th Street. Reviewed October 2, 2015.


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