By Elizabeth Ann Foster
The Irish jig The Humours of Bandon was named, as folklore has it, about four men embodying the humours or temperments from the town of Bandon in County Cork. We may never be able to trace the Irish tale back to its origin, but the four humours of choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic and sanguine are found in Margaret McAuliffe’s play of the same name.
McAuliffe is a one woman show and plays Annie a competitive Irish dancer, her mom, her teacher, announcer and every character in the play. “How do you Create a sense of a world you know so intimately for people who’ve never known or seen it?” McAuliffe asks. Then she succeeds to do just that.
We are taken behind the scenes for an intimate look at competing at the national level of Irish dance. The trials and tribulations of our soon to be Champion Annie are under examination. At 16-years of age Annie is irritable and grumpy as her mother sets her “bendies” to curl her hair. They try figure out how she is going to sleep with all the paraphernalia on her head. Part of the process of getting suited up for competition day.
Only to go from an adrenaline high to the depths of sadness and disappointment when she comes in third. First place gets 29 points second 12 and third only 5 points. A scoring system that makes no sense. Who chose 29? Why not start at 100 to score a piece Annie points out.
The following year she is cool, calm, poised and self-confident taking first place. All she had to do is act like she had it.
In a sudden plot twist Annie turns out to be optimistic in a bad situation and the show ends with an unbelievable number/jig that will be remembered by all that witness it.
The first two rows of the theatre were occupied by the Jersey Jigs dancing school. The next rows behind by their mothers. The girls were saying how they could relate to so much of what Annie went through. What about the rest of the audience – us non-dancers not steeped in the Irish lore? Absolutely we were able to enter this world and appreciate the universal struggles of competing and coming of age.
McAuliffe is gracious as she poses with the Jersey Jigs and they discuss the merits of buying costumes already made so you know what they look like or having one made for you. She renters the world of dance she left behind over 11 years ago for a fleeting moment caught up with the energy of the troupe.
Q.E.D. “quod erat Demonstratum” what was to be shown or thus it has been demonstrated Annie says as she ends her show.
The Humours Of Bandon – Written and performed by Margaret McAuliffe.
Directed by Stefanie Preissner; stage managers Grace Schulta and Alison McCarthy; assistant stage manager Elizabeth Haroian. A Fishamble: The New Play Company production at the Irish Arts Center NYC(553 West 51st Street New York, NY) on April 10, 11 & 12 at 8pm, April 13 at 2pm & 8pm, and April 14 at 3pm. Tickets are $40 (general) / $32 (members) and can be reserved by calling 866-811-4111, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or online at irishartscenter.org. After its one-week limited engagement at Irish Arts Center, regional touring performances will take place at New York Irish Center (Tuesday, April 16 at 2pm), Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens (Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30pm), and Irish Cultural & Sports Association of Southern Connecticut at Whitneyville Cultural Commons in Hamden, CT (Thursday, April 18 at 8pm). Run time 60 minutes.