Oh friends, Tweed cannot begin to tell you how pleased and flabbergasted he is on a mean streak of simply delightful performance! No exception is The Walworth Farce, going into its final weekend at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Enda Walsh’s play, performed almost pristinely by The Druid Theatre of Gaulway, Ireland (a gorgeous town where Tweed paid a visit in his jaunts around the globe last year). It’s no surprise that the company is the very same one that brought Martin McDonaugh into the spotlight many moons ago, as Walsh’s very precise rendition of a contemporary farce (he’s done his homework on Molière, indeed!) is charming, hilarious, and deeply, deeply disturbing.
Father Dinny has all but locked himself and his two sons, Sean and Blake (Denis Conway, Tadhg Murphy, and Garrett Lombard, respectively), in their London flat, where Dinny forces the family to perform the play he has penned, complete with mistaken identity, cross-dressing, dastardly plottings, and all types of sexual hijinx. All’s not well we glean immediately from Dinny’s shoddy hairpiece, which has clearly been shaved from Sean’s head, the first enforced male-pattern baldness I’ve seen since a painting of a Franciscan friar. And when outsider Hayley (Mercy Ojelade), an adorably childish woman who works at the supermarket, shows up at the door, well you know it can’t end well.
The imperative to perform, the drive to reenact the past to maintain any sense of identity, even very existence, has the heart and driving force reminiscent of Maestro Beckett. These characters do not, cannot exist beyond the story they have woven for themselves (Dinny even "runs" the lights from a makeshift switchboard on an endtable), and the sincerity and desperation invoked by both the text and performers inspires both overwhelming apathy and abhorrence. The desire for freedom from the cycle, the escape from the specters within the characters' very construction is omnipresent in the action, but the trio of men are no more able to leave their flat than Gogo and Didi are able to continue down the desolate road. A push toward the outside only sends the characters spiraling further inward. Absurdity is followed by even more absurdity.
It would be unfair of me to further divulge the action of Walworth, but suffice it to say, it is one of the more clever and devastating plays I’ve seen in a while. The only question it leaves in my warped mind is: Where are these virtuosic playwrights in America? I can think of very few: Suzan-Lori Parks and Anne Washburn come to mind immediately. But Walsh takes the horrors of Neil LaBute and the irreverent comedy of Christopher Durang, and out-LaButes and -Durangs them both.