Siiri Scott of Notre Dame Film, Television, and Theatre directs Irish Theatre of Chicago’s first touring production of the company’s 25th anniversary season this November on the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Presenting Series. From the pen of Dublin-based playwright Phillip McMahon, the limited-run play asks subtle questions around class, gender, and multigenerational poverty while the dialect-heavy dialogue develops each character through alternately bleak observations and spiky humor.
The play’s action centers around Dublin’s blighted Ballymun tower blocks as family after family relocates out of the projects. A young, single-mother, Paula, tries to hang on and keep her own family together, including managing her streetwise 16-year-old sister Roxanna, just back from London and full of swagger and Bacardi Breezers.
When a chance at romance enters Paula’s life, she must choose to sacrifice the old to build a new future or hang on to what she knows, even as it threatens to crumble around her. McMahon’s play is as vital now as when it debuted in 2011, offering a loving and unflinching look at the lives of Ireland’s strong, fierce-hearted women, and the choices they face in a difficult world. The cast’s leads include Jamie Young as Paula, Audrey Anderson as Roxanna, and Matthew Isler as Dan—a newcomer orbiting Paula’s fragile family—who may help or hurt her cause.
For those unfamiliar with the play’s Ballymun setting, in the June 23, 2016 Irish Times article “Ballymun at 50: From High Hopes to Sink Estate,” Fintan O’Toole wrote, “By the mid 1980s traditional families were already reluctant to settle in Ballymun and the tower blocks were disproportionately occupied by single mothers and their children, by single men (many recently moved from institutional care) and by people who had been homeless. Few of them had access to the income, jobs, services and supports they needed. And because they were often politically disempowered the authorities did not feel pressure to maintain the blocks to a decent standard.” A model for public housing became a blighted symbol of failed social and urban planning policy. The towers were demolished between 2004 and 2015.
Anderson’s Chicago credits include Hardtimes and The Steadfast Tin Soldier with Lookingglass Theatre Company, and Noises Off with Windy City Playhouse. She earned her BA from Loyola University Chicago and also studied in Dublin at the Gaiety School of Acting.
Isler, also an ensemble member since 2014, has appeared with ITC as Crean in The White Road, Ray in In a Little World of Our Own, Dean in Lay Me Down Softly, and Nicky in The Seafarer. Isler is also an ensemble member of Akvavit Theatre, where he has appeared as Morten in Red and Green, Halldor in Mishap!, and co-directed They Died Where They Lied.
Other area roles include Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet with Purple Bench Productions and Gus in The City of Dreadful Night at The Den Theatre. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he studied theatre at Indiana University and is a graduate of the Second City Conservatory Program. Film and TV credits include Chicago PD, Tasmanian Tiger, and Public Access. Isler is represented by Paonessa Talent.
Irish Theatre of Chicago presents Pineapple
In the notoriously dangerous neighborhood of Ballymun, Paula struggles to free her family from generational poverty, while her sister, Roxanna is only interested in herself, boys, and Bacardi Breezers. When the unknown shows up at her door, will Paula be willing to take a chance on love? Pineapple is a beautifully warm and bitingly funny play from Dublin writer/director Phillip McMahon (Come on Home).
Thursday, Nov 7––Saturday, Nov 9, 2019