Written by Elizabeth Ann Foster
The actress sitting next to me had just seen the play “Humours of Bandon” 5 hours earlier. I had seen it 3 days ago and we discussed the surprise plot twist ending enthusiastically. She had just posted her review on Facebook. The play was about Irish dancing. This traditional dance is very unique. Between the hair, costumes and the fact that arms stay straight at your side makes it all the more infectious.
We were treated to a wonderful piece performed by Garrett Coleman and Caitlin Golding both champion Irish dancers. Set to Van Morrison’s Moondance it was the highlight of the entire premiere of The Land Of Promise. It was Coleman’s hard shoe that tapped out the beat as Golding’s soft shoe followed suit. The step dancing and traditional dance incorporated was mesmerizing. Van Morrison is of Scots-Irish descent.
If only there was more dancing.
The play reminded me of a third grade elementary school presentation from the last century. Two music stands were placed on either side of a barren stage. Narrators Orlagh Cassidy and Colin Ryan read from a binder a litany of facts and figures about the Scottish Irish migration beginning in 1717 to the present day. It seemed unrehearsed as passages and lines were misread. The whole time a screen had projected facts and figures on it as if we were supposed to take notes for the quiz at the end.
Reminiscent of my homeroom third grade teacher Mrs. White from P.S. 30.
I did learn that many scenes from The Game of Thrones were filmed in the Ulster area of Northern Ireland. The playwright presented his perspective on facts such as eighteen U.S. presidents have come from lineage in this area, the most recent was President Barack Obama. President Trump, although his mother, Mary Macleod, born in Western Isles of Scotland is not considered Scots-Irish by the playwright, but German.
It was mentioned although the Scots- Irish descendents signing the Constitution and the presidents were all male, there was significant female contribution. Not one Scots- Irish woman was named however.
Most of the migrants settled in Pennsylvania initially and were still loyal to the crown. They were called “Billie Boys” which morphed into “hill billies”.
A reading ensued of the 13thAmendment and a background of Frederick Douglass visiting Belfast. How this fit into the overall narrative is unknown. It did make the history lesson more inclusive however.
Two Irish traditional songs were performed by TRÍ – The New Irish Tenors. Comprised of Karl Scully, David O’Leary and Daniel Curran. This was a welcome break from the otherwise monotonous monologue. The Sheen Center is a warm, intimate space. There is not a bad seat in the house. It looks like it was just finished yesterday brand new and sparkling. A real gem of a theater in the city.
THE LAND OF PROMISE – Written by Turlough McConnell. Directed by George C. Heslin
WITH: Elmore James, Tim Palmer, Jake Rose, Niamh Hyland, Hemmerstep Dance, The New Irish Tenors, Eoin Cannon, Lena Gabrielle (piano), Shu Nakamura (guitar).
Wold Premiere one night only Sheen Center 18 Bleeker Street, NY, NY Tuesday April 16, 7:30pm Part of the Carnegie Hall festival Migrations: The Making Of America. Tickets $35, call the Sheen Center Box Office at 212-925-2812 www.origintheatre.org