by David Walters
New York City is home to many theater festivals that gift theatergoers a plethora of opportunities to experience the uniqueness of live theater from all over the globe. Currently happening January 9-28 is the 2019 Origin 1st Irish Festival, in its eleventh year. This festival’s emphasis is contemporary plays from Ireland. It takes place in several venues across the city representing fifteen contemporary Irish writers in different events with six main-stage productions originating from Belfast, Derry, Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Queens and Manhattan.
For all Festival details, schedules and to purchase tickets, visit www.origintheatre.org
Inside Danny’s Box, by Derek Murphy, is one of the offerings of the festival. It’s a crazy-funny story of love, lack of love, misguided love and sex in all its messed-up forms.
A young couple, John (Danny Redfern Holme) and Marybeth (Aoife Williamson), just moved into the neighborhood. John quit his job as an accountant to become a writer and Marybeth, now the only breadwinner, has become resentful. This resentment has dissolved the glue of their relationship to the point that she can’t stand his breathing and fantasizes his going up in flames. While Marybeth is away at work, John has been igniting his own flames of passion.
Across the street from them is a single doting (“Whatever I’ve done, and I’ve done nothing, it was all for you.”) mom, Misses Brighty Hubble (Maria Deasy), and her son Danny (wonderfully played by Shane McNaughton with both innocence and strength), who talks to a small palm sized metal box and is the Steve Jobs of the toilet, inventing new solutions for all our bathroom problems as, “the Irish toilet is a revolting nightmare” (he invented personal portable heated toilet seats that you can take anywhere). He has never known his father, and mom has spun the story of a man who, the day before she was to give birth, went into the back yard and lit himself on fire and the remains that were left were taken away by a pack of wild hungry dogs.
As soon as Danny saw Marybeth, he was lustily smitten and in trying to win her has taken mom’s advice and planted 27 birch trees exhibiting for Marybeth (who has watched the forest go up from across the street) his determination, drive and sweaty naked chest.
And then throw into the mix a slimy, pedophile of an American priest (Ken Forman) that paid young girls to just talk about the dirty parts in the confessional booth and play with himself as they did. This of course led to him having sex with them in the confessional, eventually getting one of them pregnant and getting caught by the Bishop. As the church has done with these things, they paid the girl off, moved the priest to another parish and pretended it didn’t happen. The priest is back in town for a short stay just prior to being shipped off to the missions in Africa.
Everything culminates when Marybeth invites Danny over for drinks and conversation at seven and everyone shows up to disentangle the twisted strings of lies they all have been living, “That’s what you do when you love someone, you lie to them.”
But I won’t lie to you, mainly because I don’t love you (“Said a little bit differently, that could have been a compliment.”). This production, written very very well with great characters and warped situations, feels like it could use more rehearsal as it was very choppy and hesitant in many places exhibiting a car with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. It’s a fine vehicle though that can give a wonderful top down, wind in your hair ride when properly tuned.
Presented by Origin Theater Company at the cell, 338 West 23rd Street. Now through January 27, 2019.
Running time: Approximately 100 minutes with no intermission. It’s a small house, about 50 non-reserved seats.