Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Night in November. Play by Marie Jones. Starring: Marty Maguire. Directed by Tim Byron Owen. (Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre
255 Elm St. Davis Square, Somerville

If I had to describe “A Night in November” in a few words; I would say it is about a man in a cage. He is trapped by his past, by his petty bureaucratic job, by the entrenched divide between Protestant and Catholic Ireland.

“A Night In November,” written by Marie Jones, is a one man show. The one man, who plays 26 characters, including the protagonist Kenneth McAllister, is the actor Marty Maguire. McAllister is a low level welfare officer living in the Protestant section of Belfast. For his 40 years he has been towing the line. He moves through his carefully choreographed life like a drugged out cipher. He outwardly accepts the racist, bigoted, and hateful doggerel that is dished out by members of his “tribe,” against the Catholics living on the wrong side of the tracks.

McAllister however is starting to crack under the strain. Maguire brilliantly portrays the breakdown of this corseted man, who eventually bursts through the stranglehold of a preordained life. The sweat pours down the character’s face, he screams in rage, as he rails against the stifling bonds of family, friends and job. Maguire's portrayal of McAllister can only be described as a portrait of a raging force of nature. It is a performance of Shakespearian proportions.

Maguire fleshes out the 26 characters expertly, capturing the tics and textures of each and every one. From a wizened old sod of a father-in-law, to an in-your-face New York cop, Maguire is on the money.

In the second act McAllister embarks on a trip to New York City to witness the “World Cup,” and gains a new perspective on life. The director, Tim Byron Owen, told me during intermission that he strived to bring a universal sensibility to the production. He wanted it to be more than an “Irish” play. And indeed, Kenneth McAllister is an everyman. He is an everyman who has a mind. He is an everyman who stops to question his own existence during his all too brief time on this stage.

Doug Holder

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