While we give thanks that Ireland is nowadays tourism-friendly, the Irish Republican Army and its English overlords and their Protestant allies having worked out a cessation of hostilities that seems to be sticking, it’s impossible to appreciate Irish culture fully without an understanding of its long history of quashed rebellions. Born in Dublin in 1880 to Protestant parents, dramatist Sean O’Casey went on to become a socialist and an Irish nationalist, living through the Easter Rising and the War of Independence and capturing their tragedies and ironies in his plays. The second and third of his celebrated Dublin Trilogy – Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars – are well-known, the first installment, Shadow of a Gunman, not so much.
So it’s high time for a revival of Shadow of a Gunman, a tragicomedy of war whose protagonist – a bit like Brian in Monty Python’s Life of Brian – is a very ordinary man mistaken for someone more notorious, with ever-more-complicated consequences. Donal Davoren, a young poet living in a North Dublin tenement, assumes the role of an IRA gunman on the run, hoping that his unearned outlaw credentials will impress the beautiful Minnie Powell, who has thus far failed to notice him. Zach Gibson plays Donal Davoren, Andres Rodriguez his flatmate Seumas Shields and Jacqueline plays Minnie Powell in a new production of Shadow of a Gunman that opens on Thursday, March 2 for a two-weekend run at SUNY-New Paltz. Department of Theatre Arts chair Jack Wade directs.
Performances of Shadow of a Gunman will begin at 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays, March 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays, March 5 and 12, in the Parker Theatre on the SUNY-New Paltz campus. A free panel discussion on “Sean O’Casey’s Dublin and the Irish War of Independence” will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 3, also in Parker Theatre, moderated by University of Limerick historian Ruan O’Donnell.
Tickets for Shadow of a Gunman cost $18 general admission, $16 for seniors (62+), SUNY-New Paltz faculty and staff and non-New Paltz students, and $10 for SUNY-New Paltz students. They can be purchased between 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Parker box office, or online at www.newpaltz.edu/theatre. For additional information, call (845) 257-3880 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.