By Robert W. Bethune
Greek philosophers wrote, “Know thyself.” Irish playwrights say, “Yeah, right.”
Since John Millington Synge, Irish playwrights – in Ireland, and in this case Chicago – have had a marvelous knack for writing plays that show how families rub and bump together while their members struggle to figure out who they are and what they want. In this, the other members of one’s family can be the greatest help and also the biggest obstacle.
Such a play is “And Neither Have I Wings to Fly,” by Ann Noble Massey, presently in performance by the University of Detroit Mercy Theatre Company at the Marygrove Theatre.
Young Kathleen Donnelly is about to marry Leo Doyle, but is smitten by the wayward actor Freddy Malone. Leo’s brother, Charlie, comes to stand up with him at the altar, and is much smitten by Kathleen’s older sister, Eveline. Eveline runs the house and looks after her father, Peter, since her mother recently died. Eveline has hopes of going to university on a scholarship, but won’t leave her father on his own. All of these relationships are complicated because all of these people are busy trying to discover who they are and what they want, under the power of bereavement, frustration, infatuation and love. For Eveline, the situation is even more complicated because her dead mother keeps coming back to life. Only Eveline can see and hear her, which makes her think she’s going mad.
The setting by Melinda Pacha is wonderfully evocative. Yolanda Fleischer’s direction trusts the play and lets it take its own leisurely pace, but becomes mechanical at times; there are some very tricky and important scenes that just don’t quite work, particularly at the end.
Curtis Green, as Charlie, is particularly interesting among a very interesting cast. Charlie is a man who cannot hold still long enough to form real attachments until he meets Eveline, and then both must do great battle with themselves and each other to figure out how to let their feelings grow.
Joel Frazie brings out every bit of Leo’s sincerity and love, and also shows us very clearly why he bores Kathleen: He loves greatly but hasn’t one bit of romance.
David Kowalzcyk as Freddy is the complete opposite – as romantic as can be, and absolutely incapable of genuine love.
Susan Boonenburg’s Kathleen is young, self-centered, very emotional, a bit sluttish and frankly rather stupid; she is the only one in the world who can’t see straight through the jump-and-dump scheme Freddy has for her. As for loyalty and maturity, well, what kind of person walks out on her fiancee the night before the wedding?
Massey has a wonderfully sharp eye for character, situation and relationship, yet somehow that well-honed ability all but deserts her at the end of the play. She gives us an almost mawkishly sentimental ending, remarkably reminiscent of “Blithe Spirit.” She didn’t need to do that. She has everything she needs in this play to simply let the thing play out. That is the only flaw I see in this play and production.
(FOR “REVIEW BOX”)
‘And Neither Have I Wings to Fly’
University of Detroit Mercy Theatre Company at the Marygrove College Theatre, 8245 W. McNichols, Detroit. Fri.-Sun., through Feb. 17. Tickets: $15. For information: 313-993-3270 or http://theatre.udmercy.edu