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Reviews for Theatre Banshee's The Man from Clare
Best Director - Sean Branney, 2004 Maddy Awards
Best Performance - Dan Harper 2004 Maddy Awards
Best Playwright - John B. Keane, Best of 2004, Terri Roberts, Back Stage West
Best Actor - Dan Harper, Best of 2004, Madeline Shaner, Back Stage West


Soccer star scores a goal in 'Clare'
***Recommended***

A quietly touching portrait of an Irish soccer star facing life changes in the twilight of his career, John B. Keane's bittersweet comedy, "The Man From Clare," is sure to resonate with anyone who's had to let go of dreams as part of growing up.

Impeccably nuanced performances in Theatre Banshee's heartfelt production draw the full measure of pathos from Keane's beautifully penned character sketches, which embody the Irish gift for finding poetry in everyday experience. When Padraic (Dan Harper), the hero of his county's amateur soccer team, reflects on his poor performance in the national finals, he simply but eloquently speaks of "my heart held back by my knees."

Aside from his past glory on the playing field, Padraic leads the lonely, unglamorous life of a fisherman. Soccer has left no room for women in Padraic's life, but a sudden opportunity to change that arrives during the team's trip to the finals, in the form of his host's painfully shy daughter, Nellie (Rebessa Marcotte [sic.]).

Lack of self-confidence has put Nellie well on the path to spinsterhood, and at first her self-deprecation blinds Padraic to any romantic possibilities. But the actors' wonderful chemistry — aided by Barry Lynch's lively turn as Nellie's matchmaking father — makes their growing attraction convincing.

Padraic's progress toward a new stage of life pits him against his self-centered coach (Andrew Leman) and a talented upstart player (Josh Thoemke), and amid rueful reflections, brawls, song and beer, director Sean Branney forges a charming portrait of the sacrifices made along the way to fulfillment.

Los Angeles Times, Reviewed by Philip Brandes


The Man from Clare
** Recommended**

Once the “finest athlete in Clare,” the celebrated Padraic (Dan Harper) is now a soccer player past his prime, with creaky knees, a gashing sense of self-doubt, and a hole in his life the size of a soccer stadium. When his boisterous team of footballers takes on the lads from County Kerry, Padraic, not surprisingly, performs less than satisfactorily, and soon after finds solace and a bed in the home of an elbow-bending, blarney-filled Irishman named Morisheen (the superb Barry Lynch). Sharing the house is his shy, thoroughly pedestrian daughter, Nellie (Rebecca Marcotte), whom Morisheen would love to see happily married. Is there a romance in the making? The remainder of John B. Keane’s beautifully written script holds little surprise (there is a nasty donnybrook between Padraic and a teammate, lots of drinking and plenty of raucous Irish humor) as the outcome of this sentimental but charming tale of transformation and redemption plays itself out in the mysterious realm of the human heart. Keane has scripted some captivating characters, whose passions, vulnerabilities and raw humanity are visceral and compelling. Sean Branney directs a fine cast that features a robust performance by Andrew Leman, as Padraic’s volatile, controlling uncle Daigan.

LA Weekly, Reviewed by Lovell Estell III


Back Stage West - The Man from Clare

What makes a man? A loaded question, that, and the answer depends a lot on time and place and who's doing the asking. In this case, it's 1962 Ireland; Padraic (an affecting Dan Harper) is a 35-year-old football star from the town of Cuais, in County Clare. A painful clobbering at the hands of rival Bealabawn, of County Kerry, forces him to confront the passage of time. Though still physically strong, his timing is gone and his body too battered to continue playing. Now Padraic must redefine himself without the very thing he's been constantly taught to make the center of his life.

Irish sports figures such as Padraic aren't like their flashy American counterparts. Playing football doesn't bring the key to the city or a multimillion-dollar contract. Game day may be full of high-spirited glory and rabble-rousing, but afterwards it's back to an Everyman existence of day jobs and raising a family. For Padraic, that means hauling fish from the cold sea and life with his uncle Daigan (Andrew Leman), trainer for the Cuais team and the man who raised Padraic after his parents died when he was still a wee lad.

Playwright John B. Keane tells a straightforward tale of a middle-aged man's struggle to create a life for himself outside of the macho worlds of football and fishing to which his uncle has confined him. It is, in effect, a belated coming-of-age story, with motivations clearly written--and seen through--on all sides. Padraic's efforts are mirrored in Nellie (Rebecca Marcotte), a plain-faced former nun who is facing spinsterhood in the home of her boisterous, bellowing father (the delightfully irrepressible Barry Lynch). When these two lonely hearts meet, their insecurities and unease with the opposite sex manifest in a denial of interest that leads to unexpected confrontations among themselves, Padraic's teammates, and the domineering men who love and protect the pair.

Director Sean Branney elicits a hearty sense of camaraderie among the lads, as well as fine moments of both sensitivity and crushing cruelty when emotions run high. Leman, in particular, demonstrates heartbreaking power in a scene in which he verbally attacks Nellie with laser-sharp accuracy, and her poignant response is rooted in equally aching honesty.

Some design elements, however, are less solid. Mary O'Sullivan's whitewashed lighting fails to offer any nuance or subtlety, while Arthur MacBride's frugal Irish home still lacks a few basics and features a clearly fake stove. But Laura Brody's costumes attest to the practical nature of the Irish sense of style.

Growing up--and opening up--is hard to do at any age, yet the man, and the cast, of Clare manage it with splendid clarity.

Back Stage West, Reviewed by Terri Roberts


ReviewPlays.com - The Man from Clare

Being a "man" has different meanings for different cultures, and its definition changes with the times.  Being a "sport hero" has even more variances, and where today's sports hero dangles his gaudy, tacky and over priced gold chain around his neck, as he drives an equally gaudy automobile, the man from Clare we see in this play is a respected local sports hero whose glory comes from neighbors who greet him with respectful awe for his prowess and from a good catch in his fishing net.  
 
But then, this is Ireland, and the time is 1962 and Padraic knows that his time for glory may be coming to an end as he reaches his middle thirties. 
 
However, football, as they call it, is not really the story here.  As we see it, this is more a tale about the passing of the torch, the moving on in life and the difficulties faced when one attempts to accept certain truths.

In the scheme of life, children are born, raised, grow up, and at a certain age, the parents release them to the world, with a sigh and a prayer, hoping that what they have taught them will be enough to keep them from harm.  It seldom is.  Along the way, there are many falls and stumbles, some serious, others trivial, but we survive and struggle on.
   
Somewhere on this road, we fall in love.  It seems a natural drive to search  - to burrow and sometimes become compulsive over finding the "right person" and when that person comes along, we sometimes don't recognize it, or don't know what to do about it.

All these elements are brilliantly expounded in John B. Keane's story about a man from Clare whose life suddenly comes crashing head on into all of the above.

In a crucial game against arch-rival Bealabawn, of County Kerry, Padraic's knees give out, and the one-goal loss convinces him that it's time for a change.  For him being a man means taking stock of his life and moving on to the next level.  For for his teammates, being a man means going to the pub, womanizing, getting drunk and going about earning their daily keep until the next game, where they can do it all over again. 

The loss of the game is a significant metaphoric milestone, for now Padraic realizes he will never be seen in the same light by his peers.  Losing the game means losing a part of his life - losing a status - losing his youth.  Having been raised by his uncle Daigan after his parents death, his life was sheltered and channeled into football, fishing and staying home, but this loss makes him feel that there is something missing in his life.

His uncle's comfort in not enough - his teammates encouragement is not enough - his friends are not enough, and he realizes that more than ever he needs something special in his life.  He needs a woman.

Enter Morisheen, a crusty old widower with a  spinster single daughter and a recalcitrant married daughter.  Eager for someone to marry Nellie, he invites the team to his home after the game, hoping to make a match of sorts. She is adamant against it, and Padraic, the most eligible in the bunch, wants no part of it.

Romance being what it is, the two talk, explore, and like overgrown teens, clumsily attempt some understanding, which develops only after Padraic has fist fight with a teammate which leaves him even more defeated than before.

Andrew Leman is terrific as Daigan, the uncle who stubbornly wants to keep Padraic under his wing and unwittingly tries to shape him into what he would have liked to become himself.  His condemnation of Nellie for trying to "change" Padraic is a superb example of a man in crisis, flailing at the most vulnerable to hide his weakness.  

When Barry Lynch takes the stage, he could recite the alphabet and give you goose bumps, and here his portrait of Morisheen, Nellie's father, is both humorous and sensitive as a man who still longs for a spark of love, but feels the responsibility of staying home with his single daughter.

Dan Harper is eloquent at times, speaking Padraic's words with a simple honesty that cuts through the soul.  Harper captures Padraic's life changing moments with tender toughness and understanding, making his confused transition a realistic and sometimes all too familiar dilemma. 

Equally compelling, Rebecca Marcotte presents us with Nellie as a woman who desperately wants to find love, but is afraid to think about it for fear it might be painful.  Her hesitant acceptance of Padraic's affections is like someone inching towards the beach for the first time, but secretly wanting to be engulfed by the churning waves.

The rest of the ensemble is equally excellent, and together they make the Man from Clare an arrestingly warm and joyful tale, where you want to learn more about the people yet, feel a kinship to all as their passions and agonies are uncomfortably familiar at times. 

Never mind that this is Ireland and its over forty years ago. Director Sean Branney draws out performances that convince the audience this could be anywhere at anytime. Human needs don't change that much, and the residents of Clare have the same basic needs of love and acceptance as those of modern day cities. They may go about solving them a little differently, but in the end, the results are often the same.

ReviewPlays.com, Reviewed by Jose Ruiz


The Man from Clare Takes a Compelling Journey to Ireland

In dealing with the rowdy boys of the soccer world, John B. Keane’s intimate, probing comedy/drama The Man from Clare, now enjoying its west coast premiere, places his lads pretty much on provincial turf in Ireland in the 1960s.

Keane’s story is as simple as the people we meet, and is told just as simply. The drama is sometimes hurtful; the comedy is plentiful, both light and tinged with darkness. The dialogue is wonderfully Irish, with a lilting, working-class charm one moment and a sharp edge the next.

Padraic (Dan Harper)), the local, amateur football superstar, at 35 is too old to shine; his game is off. It’s never easy for a man to turn over the title of “best player” of his home team. When a reluctant Padraic is prodded into a clash with his close friend, Jim (Josh Thoemke), his replacement as “best,” a pretty bloody fight ensues, after which the new king is crowned.

Padraic, a fisherman, orphaned as a child, was raised by Daigan (Andrew Leman), who kept him away from the outside world – the world that includes women – as much as possible. These two men, and a group of boisterous good lads go from County Clare to play County Kerry. Padraic and Daign stay at Morisheen’s (Barry Lynch), humble home; meager and neat, complete with pictures of President Kennedy and the Pope tacked to the wall. And guess what? Morisheen has a daughter, Nellie (Rebecca Marcotte), once a nun, now headed for spinsterhood. Bumpy roads usually lead to the expected place.

The overall production is splendid. All performances are top-notch. The very clumsy love scenes between Padraic and Nellie are uniquely tender and memorably beautiful. The hate scenes between Daidan and Nellie are amazingly stinging. Harper is winningly genuine as a guy who simply wants a real life. “I’m just an ordinary fisherman,” he says, and it says volumes about him. Nellie’s reaction is quietly, though not mildly, stunning in the faces of Daigan’s unleashed Anger. Andrew Leman is always right on target in any role. Lynch is very powerful and commands the stage at will. Josie DiVincenzo as Nellie’s sister is appropriately irritating; Thoemke appropriate in finding his courage, though it’s misplaced; and Robyn Heller appropriately inappropriate in causing trouble. Dan Conroy, Matthew Fahey, Matthew Schueller and Kalafatic Poole complete the fine cast. Arthur MacBride’s set looks like a work in progress, Mary O’Sullivan’s lighting is utilitarian and Laura Brody’s costumes are very apropos.

Park La Brea News/Beverly Press, Reviewed by Dave DePino


'Clare' Delivers Taste of Eire

BURBANK — I once thought Gaelic football, team songs and flagons of beer were not the stuff of great literature. After hanging on every word uttered by the inspired performers of Theatre Banshee in their latest production, "The Man from Clare," I am eating my own words.

Written by beloved Irish playwright John B. Keane, the play, continuing at the Gene Bua Theatre in Burbank, is a touching portrait of aging football player Padraic O'Dea, played convincingly by Dan Harper, as he attempts to forge a new life off the field.

But beyond being a play of self-realization and courage, it is ultimately a beautiful love story.

After a grueling game in County Kerry, Ireland, Padraic and his smothering uncle and coach, played with equal parts tenderness and venom by Andrew Leman, are invited into the warm home of Morisheen Brick (Barry Lynch), a local fan. The chemistry is palpable between Padraic and Morisheen's spinster daughter, Nellie, yet both resist the temptation of a possible life together.

Nellie, played with humor and grace by Rebecca Marcotte, delivers a heartbreaking monologue about the forgotten females of the world, "... the ones who have blemished faces and stuttering tongues."

Sean Branney's strength as a director is evident in the energy shown on stage. Lines are delivered with confidence and emotion, but more important, the other actors listen with feeling. Keane's language is bracingly honest and quintessentially Irish.

Mix in the rousing renditions of Gaelic ballads sung by six strapping football players with great voices, and one feels completely transported to a little cottage in County Kerry.

News-Press, Reviewed by Lisa Dupuy


The Man from Clare

In the west coast premiere of John B. Keane’s striking comedy/drama, The Man from Clare, we are taken back into the 1960s, in the provinces of County Clare and County Kerry, Ireland, where a group of lads participating in the world of amateur soccer are preparing for a major match. County Clare hasn’t won in years and things don’t look too good for the team as their lead man, Padraic, is thirty-five years old and fading.

Keane’s story is really quite simple about simple people on a tiny dot on the map. But lives loom large no matter where they live. Here there is a lot of delicious comedy, though some of it very dark, and some drama that cuts deep. The dialogue is wonderfully Irish, with a lilting, working-class charm one moment and a sharp edge the next.

Padraic (Dan Harper), the local amateur football super-star, at thirty-five is too old to shine; his game is off. It’s never easy for a man to turn over the title of “best player” of his home team. When a reluctant Padraic is prodded into a clash with his close friend, Jim (Josh Thoemke), his replacement as “best,” a pretty bloody fight ensures, after which, the new king is crowned.

Padraic was an orphan. Raised by Daigan (Andrew Leman), who kept a very short leash on him, treating him, even in adulthood, like a boy instead of a man. Padraic’s work is fishing; his play, soccer. There are no women in either man’s life. These two men, and a group of boisterous lads, go from County Clare to Kerry to play. Padraic and Daigan stay at friend Morisheen’s (Barry Lynch) humble home. It is meager and neat, complete with a picture of President Kennedy and the Pope tacked to the wall. As luck would have it, Morisheen has a daughter, Nellie (Rebecca Marcotte), once a nun, but now headed for spinsterhood. Bumpy roads usually lead to the expected place.

This is truly a marvelous production with performances all in perfect pitch. The awkward and uncomfortable love scenes between Harper and Marcotte are uniquely gentle and memorably beautiful. The scenes between Leman and Marcotte sting with loathing. Harper is most likable and credible as a man just wanting a normal life. “I’m just an ordinary fisherman,” he says, and that says volumes about him. Marcotte’s reactions are not outwardly explosive, though she does stand her ground. Her face and body language are wonderfully telling. Leman, a very solid actor, gives us a man whose character does a complete turnabout due to certain events. Lynch is so dynamic he’s an automatic scene-stealer but shows polite restraint within the parameters of the play. Nellie’s sister is the perfect pain in the neck as written, but Josie DeVencenzo gives her a soft side too. Thoemke’s Jim as wimp turned hunk finds that his courage comes with a high price tag. Thoemke goes through some nice changes. And Robyn Heller is an on-target, trouble-making groupie. Dan Conroy, Matthew Fahey, Matthew Schueller and Kalafatic Poole complete the fine cast. Arthur MacBride’s set looks like a work in progress, Mary O’Sullivan’s lighting is utilitarian, and Lara Brody’s costumes are very apropos.

ShowMag.com, Reviewed by Dave DePino


The Man from Clare

Although set in rural Ireland in 1962, the robust portrait of an athlete losing his edge is timeless and late playwright John B. Keane's sensitivity and lyricism give fresh life to the term romantic comedy. Director Sean Branney has a painter's eye for blocking on the tiny stage used by Theatre Banshee and a feel for both the bombast and defensiveness of his characters.

Padraic is the star of the football team coached by his uncle Daigan who raised him but at 35 Padraic's legs are giving out and the team loses The Big Match by one point. The Man From Clare takes place after the defeat in the modest home of Morisheen and his daughter Nellie who put Padraic and Daigan up for the night. Morisheen has an ulterior motive. He's dying to get Nellie, an ex-nun, married off so he can marry again. Padraic and Nellie are horrified and embarrassed by his heavy-handed matchmaking, which is excorciated [sic.] by Daigan. After having his nephew to himself all these years and molding him into the football player he could never be, he's not about to lose him to a woman he insults in the most blistering terms.

Further insults occur when the team's new star player, young Jim, turns up with a rude young girl, Elsie, who likes nothing better than giving people a piece of her mind. "A piece of nothing is worth nothing," Morisheen tells her tartly. But it's Padraic's reproaches that inflame Jim to the point of challenging him to a fight or perhaps, heady with victory, he seizes the chance to vaunt his physical prowess.

The male rituals of youthful supremacy are vividly depicted by Keane and their emotional validity is chilling. It's incredible that Padraic and Nellie, who have known each other for 10 minutes, can reach a happy ending but Keane pulls it off with the help of an exceptional cast.

Rebecca Marcotte's remarkable facial expressions depict Nellie's repression and anxiety without losing her gentleness. Dan Harper plays a stolid Padraic with a quiet understated integrity. Barry Lynch is an exuberant life force as the wily roguish Morisheen and Josie DiVincenzo makes his feisty younger daughter Brid a chip off the auld block. Andrew Leman masters the difficult task of making a sympathetic character out of Daigan, both as the authoritative coach and the despairing possessive uncle who doesn't want to lose the nephew who has been his reason for living. Josh Thoemke is a fiery young Jim whose head is completely turned by his victory.

Mary O'Sullivan's excellent lighting design shadows the prologue in front of the curtain in which the football team has a pep rally and sings its Clare Fight Song in beautiful harmony. Modest pin-point accurate costumes are designed by Laura Brody.

The realistic Irish cottage by Arthur MacBride displays photographs of the Pope and President Kennedy of equal size and side by side. That is the only element that dates the play.

Theatre Banshee, which celebrates its Tenth Anniversary next season, is a group to watch.

CurtainUp.com, Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock


The Man from Clare

It takes an outstanding ability and dedicated director to know their audience and to hit upon precisely the right play that will captivate that audience. Possessing these qualities is the critically acclaimed director, Sean Branney, with his hit, The Man From Clare, by author John B. Keane, showing at the Banshee Theatre in Burbank, California.

Author John B. Keane is one of the most widely read Irish authors of the 20th Century. Living in Listowel, County Kerry, he spent most of his time writing novels, plays, and short stories in addition to running his pub. His writing inspiration came from the many stories he had heard over the years from visiting patrons. According to Sean, “even though John B. Keane is no longer with us, the pub is still open and the family welcomes you all to stop in for a pint and a bit of the craic”.

Why bring this play to the American stage? According to Sean, “on the plane during a recent trip to Ireland, Sean and wife as well as co-producer, Leslie Baldwin, apparently kicked off a conversation with a nurse who had said it was the second best play she had ever seen. Curious and attracted by the simplicity of the play, they set out to read it. One thing led to another, and they arranged to meet with Mr. Keane’s widow to obtain approval to do the play in America. Delighted by their interest in her husband’s play, Mrs. Keane immediately set the wheels in motion. Several phone calls later, Mrs. Keane was assisting the cast and director with language, Irish slang, and annunciation”, which the cast readily absorbed and perfected. Perfected so well in fact, that some of the Ireland born audience members found it hard to tell whether they came from Ireland, or not.

The Man From Clare is a witty, humorous, drive round the bend, yet poignant production of the life of Irish fisherman, and amateur football players in the Irish GAA, (Gaelic Athletic Association), who will come to terms with life’s realities before the trip draws close to an end. It is also the men’s proverbial look into their past, present, and future, while either coming into their own, or facing the reality of age, disappointment, and change, that is so compelling and close to home for the audience. What makes this play so appealing? “It’s the fact that the response from men in the audience is so overwhelming. It pushes their buttons. They come here unprepared, thinking it’s just another Irish play, and end up leaving with a profound emotional experience.” However, both men and woman alike relate to the story.

The play begins with the team setting out across the Shannon River to compete in the All Ireland Football Game in Kerry. After being defeated, the younger member of the team, Petey, played by Matthew Fahey, begins to question the athletic ability of the older member of the team, Padraic, magnificently played by Dan Harper, whose character has been controlled most of his life by his over-bearing uncle Daigan, played by Andrew Lehman. Alcohol flows, arguments ensue, emotions get high, friends insult friends, and innocent bystanders reap the havoc, while Padraic must inevitably face his future, and the “circumstances and choices life brings”.

The play is set mostly in the Kerry home of the team’s hospitable host Morisheed, played by Barry Lynch. Lynch delivers a powerful portrayal of the salty-widowed-father of two daughters. Brid, played by Josie DiVincenzo, is the very married and better looking, yet obnoxious, younger daughter who just ran away from her newly married husband. Nellie, played by Rebecca Marcotte, is the quiet and recently returned home from the convent, plane Jane spinster and eldest daughter, which Morisheed hilariously attempts to entice obtainable men into marrying her every time one comes through his door.

The play runs from May 21 though July 3rd, 2004. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday’s at 2:00 p.m., with a special showing on July 3rd, 2004. Following Saturday shows, the cast and crew invite the audience to stay and get acquainted. You may want to head over to Timmy Nolan’s Irish Pub in Taluca Lake, where they have fabulous fish and chips, and well known Ruben sandwich, or Ireland’s 32, known for their great food, hospitality, and entertainment. Chances are you will run into some of the cast.

The Banshee Theater is located at 3435 W. Magnolia, Burbank, California, just east of Hollywood Way, off the 134 Ventura Freeway. Tickets for general admission are $15.00, and for students, seniors and groups $12.00, and can be reserved in advance by calling (818) 628-0688 or log onto their website at theatrebanshee.org.

Theater Banshee is a not for profit theatre. “They are dedicated to the creation of challenging live entertainment that inspires their audience to feel and think.” With that in mind, they want you to get involved. Tell your friends, see their plays, volunteer, or become involved in their Adopt-an-Actor program, a tax-deductible donation that helps subsidize your adopted actor’s expenses, and can be a one-time donation or monthly donations. Either way, your donations would be welcome and appreciated. Your help and support will help them continue to bring you the very best in Irish entertainment. Watch for their next play “The Hunt For Red Willie”, coming September 24th, 2004.

The Irish Herald, reviewed by Vicki McCann


John Keane's THE MAN FROM CLARE follows an Irish footballer and local hero as time takes its toll on his playing abilities.  This is not the story of a modern-day millionaire with an ego to match, Dan Harper's Padraic O'Dea ekes out a living as a fisherman in 1962 Ireland and captains his local team during his off-hours.  The squad comes within shouting distance of beating a longtime cross-county rival but fails due to O'Dea's aging flesh failing his youthful spirit.  Never given to the antics of his drunken teammates, O'Dea's sheltered, bachelor life aided and abetted by his Uncle/Coach comes in for close and painful examination in the house of another fisherman and his spinster daughter where they are quartered on a stormy night.  O'Dea's shy romance with the fisherman's daughter coupled with his desire to move on with life faces vicious opposition from the Uncle.  Leman, who played the cuddly Father Flote in Banshee's RED NOSES gets to exhibit a mean streak at the expense of Rebecca Marcotte's Nellie, a former nun returned home to no future.  Keane's play sensitively explores what it means for a man who lives by and through his body when that body inevitably slows.  The performances make the script, especially the sparring between Harper and Leman and the blustery, booming Lynch who ultimately wants to see the young people get together and not entirely out of altruism.   There are brawls, drunkenness, and verbal jousts aplenty but director Sean Branney does not let that distract from the reflection and introspection that make up the big heart of this wonderful production.

Small Theatre Newsletter, Reviewed by Ravi Narasimhan


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