Stage: The Pride of Parnell Street
<em>The</em> <em>Pride of Parnell Street</em> is a wistful tale of a marriage torn apart by “domestic violence, drug addiction, and AIDS,” said Frank Scheck in the <em>New York Post.</em>&
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“Their voices remain calm, and their language is densely lyrical, but the couple in Sebastian Barry’s new play have some pretty horrifying tales to tell,” said Frank Scheck in the New York Post. Delivered in the “alternating monologue style” favored by many Irish playwrights, The Pride of Parnell Street is a wistful tale of a marriage torn apart by “domestic violence, drug addiction, and AIDS.” Joe and Janet are Dubliners with little to live for but their mutual love. They endure the death of a child, but irreparable damage is done on the night that the Irish national soccer team gets knocked out of the 1990 World Cup, when Joe returns home drunk from the pub and beats Janet to a pulp.
This play would be an “unremittingly bleak experience” were it not for “powerful central performances” from actors Mary Murray and Aidan Kelly, said Andy Buck in Theatermania.com. As Janet, Murray recounts the details of her tormented marriage with melancholic sweetness. She speaks in thick “Dublinese” that’s often tough to understand, but it’s “amazing how much” poetry Murray can bring “to a monologue about a bloody nose.” As Joe, Kelly wins the audience’s sympathy for a character who is, in essence, “a lying lout.” Together, the two actors make these “unfortunate souls” seem movingly real. The Pride of Parnell Street is filled with superbly crafted odes to Joe and Janet’s troubled past, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. Though Barry usually stops short of sentimentality, the play’s “rueful strolls down Memory Lane” are full of missteps. Joe and Janet’s “morning-after analysis” of their marital turmoil “rarely surprises,” and often skirts cliché. In the aftermath of a separation, Joe descends into heroin addiction, becomes involved in a murder, and ends up contracting AIDS in prison. Such a fate inevitably leads audiences to question whether the couple’s marriage was ever really “all that good.” The characters obviously think so, as does Barry. But Pride “refuses to question this assumption,” and thus lacks the depth of great tragedy.