The Irish Curse, now playing at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, tells the story of five men of Irish descent that gather for a support group in the basement of a Brooklyn Catholic Church. For these men, size matters. Indeed size — or the lack of it — has defined their lives. They all have “the Irish curse” — they are unusually poorly endowed.
Their genitalia “situation,” as they call it, has become the driving force of their lives. It has shaped their relationships – intimate and otherwise –their careers, and identities.
“What makes us men is having a dick and balls, and if I don’t, I’m not a man,” to quote the play.
AtticRep is in their inaugural season as a resident theatre company of the Tobin Center. They aim to put on productions that are challenging, immediate, and inspiring. They hope their plays will provoke dialogue and change, The Irish Curse is sure to inspire plenty.
Of all shortcomings, the men feel trapped in one they can’t alter, one that’s more likely to be the subject of jokes than a topic of heartfelt conversation. The play has jokes aplenty, but it also has moments of touching honesty that guide the audience towards questioning how they have allowed themselves to be defined by their own insecurities.
Written by Martin Casella and directed by Seth Larson and Roberto Prestigiacomo, the play is held in the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater. The intimacy of the blackbox theater successfully lends the impression that you’re in the room with these men, eavesdropping on their conversation.
Over the course of the play, stereotypes of gender, race, and profession are raised and questioned. Rick, played by Alejandro Cardona, is a young man with a sock in his pants and tall tales about his sexual exploits. Stephen, played adroitly by Tyler Keyes, is a gay cop with a big gun and bigger intimacy issues. Joseph, played by Lawrence Coop, is a lawyer whose wife left him for a man who has what he has not.
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The support group is led by Father Kevin Shaunessy, played a talented Rick Frederick, who finds liberation through a candid exploration of his own self-doubt.
“I never kissed another girl, but I never got laughed at again,” he said in the play.
The men’s banter and griping gives way to self-reflection and personal connection as they are sharply questioned by newcomer Keiran (Sam Mandelbaum), a young Irish immigrant with a big secret of his own.
The play is amusing, provocative, and uplifting. The opening night audience gave a standing ovation.
The Irish Curse runs March 25-April 5. Performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday are at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available online, by phone (210-223-8624), and at the box office.
Featured/top image: Father Kevin Shaunessy, played by actor Rick Frederick in “The Irish Curse” at the Tobin Center. Photo by Siggi Ragnar.