Following the hugely successful production of John B Keane’s ‘Sharon’s Grave’ last year, the Castlemanor Players directed by Fr Patsy Young are back once again, this time with yet another poignant Irish play, Brian Friel’s ‘The Loves of Cass McGuire’.
It tells the sad story of an Irish woman who returns home having worked for more than 50-years among New York’s deadbeats, failures and dropouts.
Almost 35-years after he directed the play to rave reviews at the Derry Drama Festival, earning compliments from adjudicator Scott Marshall who suggested the only great regret was that Friel himself wasn’t there to see it, Fr Young is to take the play on tour for eight nights in August-September at five venues across Cavan and Leitrim.
Having opened in Kiltyclogher on Friday, it moves to Shercock tonight (Sunday, August 25), and ‘The Loves of Cass McGuire’ then plays two nights each at the Cornmill Theatre, Carrigallen (August 30-31), The Ramor Theatre, Virginia, (September 6-7) and The Town Hall Theatre, Cavan Town (September 14-15).
Gripping, often humorous, but steeped in compassion, Friel scripted a rich and complex portrait of a marginalised emigrant returning home.
The play contends however the difficulties she has in coming to terms with a life not as she imagined and the exclusions society now imposes upon her.
The ‘loves’ referred to in the title meanwhile are not love stories, but rather the love the main character has for people in her life. Among them her brother Harry, his wife and four children whom she has sent $10 home to each week, as well as presents and cards, for the 52-years she lived in America “a block from Skid Row”, “washing, scrubbing and fixing sandwiches”.
Cass believes her sacrifice for her family will be appreciated, and she dreams of a happy homecoming, but sadly finds she has been deluding herself.
Finding Cass’s ways loud, and difficult to handle her family conspire to place her in a nursing home. Eventually this loveless scenario is replaced by a fantasy world of make-believe where a new vision of happiness is constructed from her past.
Eileen Slevin, who assisted on ‘Sharon’s Grave’ last year, most recently starred in The Olympia’s ‘It’s the Real McCoy’. She is joined on stage in ‘The Loves of Cass McGuire’ by Michael Olwill (Peader Minogue - ‘Sharon’s Grave), Ballinagh who plays Cass’ brother Harry.
The cast also includes Sinead Young-Hoey from Billis who plays Harry’s wife Alice; Brian Murray, Carrigallen as the couple’s son, Dom; Anothony O’Boyle (Dinzie Conlee - SG) plays the role of Mr Ingram; Rosie Doyle from Killeshandra as Cass’ mother; Eibhlin Nic Eochaidh of Glenfarne as Trilbe Costello; Hubert McMorrow, Glenfarne as Pat Quinn; Eileen Ward from Carrigallen as Mrs Butcher; and Caroline O’Connor-Wood, Killeshandra as Tessa.
‘The Loves of Cass McGuire’ is the third stage production from the Castlemanor Players in as many years, with Bryan McMahon’s ‘The Honey Spike’ preceding last year’s performance of ‘Sharon’s Grave’ before it.
25th at 80
Last year’s production was very well-received and Fr Young has similarly high expectations of this year’s production.
Now in his eightieth year and this his 25th stage production as director, Fr Young is delighted to have once again enlisted such talent as he has in this year’s cast. His joy is two-fold in that many of the actors and actresses taking part earned their stage début under his tuition.
“It’s a great reward to see people I have known for many years - some of whom started out onstage in plays I put on - and being able to work with them again.”
Despite not being one of Friel’s best known plays, Fr Young insists it is one of his best.
“It has all the hallmarks of a classic because it deals with the universal theme, by that I mean he contrived a story which examines life, love, disappointment and the way in which human nature creates a mechanism to cope with situations.
“Cass has had a hard life, a loveless life and she returns to a loveless life, distant from what she has in her memory. So to cope with that the play looks at her now, in a nursing home and how her and the other residents build a new imaginary past which brings them a new sense of happiness. They begin rhapsodising about a past that never happened. The play combines pathos, humour and truth”.
Being held in conjunction with ‘Crossing Borders’ a conference which explores features of the borderland counties, Fr Young adds that the play’s poignancy, even after so many years, is not lost on today’s audience, especially this year, the year of The Gathering which looks to encourage emigrants to return home even to visit.
“Philadelphia dealt with the physicality of emigration, Cass deals with the psychology of returning. There are a lot of issues then which are coming back now. It’s a very relevant work.”
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