They Float Up – Bewley’s Café Theatre – Review by Paddy McGovern
May 06 – 25, 2019
Not for the first time, the current show at Bewley’s lunchtime theatre reminds us that some of the finest productions and performances in Dublin are as likely to be found in small venues as on the stage of large, long-established venues. Unlike many plays in Dublin in recent times, stretched into two acts, without the material to sustain that duration, Jacquelyn Reingold’s one-act, They Float Up, shows the value of compact, economical writing.
“Would you pay a dollar to see my tits?” is not the most predictable question in the first five minutes of conversation with a stranger. But then again Joan (Susannah de Wrixon) is not a very predictable character, more like “some weird lady, looking for adventure”, as the hapless, trapped Darnell (Kwaku Fortune) describes her. In skin-tight floral trousers, the highest of heels and a Theresa May style bauble necklace, downing several drinks in quick succession, de Wrixon’s Joan suggests that this may be an enjoyable piece of lightweight, comic diversion. Fortune’s Darnell is initially bemused, then irritated and suddenly the play takes off onto another level.
The piece is set in the front room of what turns out to be a “titty bar” in New Orleans, five years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane and its aftermath provide Reingold with a wealth of material, touching on questions of race, class, politics and environmental disaster, all of which are exploited in depth, with skill and the lightest of touches. Issues evolve naturally and inevitably. They “float up”, you might say, from the depths of Darnell’s lived experience. But that phrase comes to mean something quite different in the context of the play.
If the writing is impressive, what makes the production memorable is the quality of the acting. Kooky, uninhibited, garrulous, white New Yorker, in search of change and excitement encounters quiet, introspective young black man with a lot to think about and reflect on. Fortune’s mastery of facial expression, timing and tiny gestures is remarkable in such a young actor. De Wrixon’s extrovert, gushing Joan is the perfect foil. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a finer interpretation than this brilliantly paced production (by Peter McDermott).
This play will send you back out into Grafton St. with a smile on your face and a feeling that you have just experienced a perfect piece of lunchtime theatre. It continues daily at 1 p.m., Monday – Saturday, until May 25th