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Get The Boat, Innit

Posted 7/13/18

Get the Boat, Innit  reviewed  by Fern Siegel for

A 21st-century Ireland is giving rise to new voices, especially female playwrights. Two worth hearing — Eavan Brennan and Colette Forde, featured at last year’s Limerick Fringe Festival — have brought their one-acts to New York.

Now at the SoHo Playhouse, Get The Boat and Innit boast women coping with an array of issues: sexual, financial and emotional. Both are economically staged and pack punch.

In Get The Boat, playwright Eavan Brennan has created an intimate, yet powerful play that underscores why choice is critical for women. It also explores the agonizing decisions many Irish women are forced to confront.

It opens with Grainne (Siobhan Donnellan) on an overnight ferry to England. Turns out, she’s booked a shared room, and Bridget (Eavan Brennan) soon joins her.

Before long, the two strangers admit the real reason for the journey — and that initial secret, seemingly a bond, becomes a dramatic point of contention. The pacing is perfect as the tension builds.

Being Irish, they are both subjected to the 8th Amendment, a 1983 anti-abortion law that gave the unborn and pregnant women an equal right to life. (Voters repealed it in late May, and the legislature must now move to enact a law that  reflects the referendum vote.

As each woman grapples with her individual circumstances, issues of motherhood, economic and social realities come to the fore. Brennan’s play is poignant and memorable. This is activist theater with heart — it forces audiences to consider the enormous complexities that surround such a profound decision.

The women have radically different stories — but what they share is the religious, psychological and political fallout of circumstances beyond their control. When one is at the mercy of tyrannical laws, cruelty too often masquerades as principle.

The actresses are first-rate, and their chemistry is palpable. Brennan deftly combines sensitivity and determination, while Donnellan successfully captures a woman torn between opposing forces.

Get The Boat is a quietly riveting effort — one that approaches difficult subjects with understanding and insight.

The second act on the bill, Innit, is a one-woman show that’s funny and relentlessly sad. It’s a tale of class and ethnic woes, featuring Kelly Roberts (an excellent Colette Forde), a Manchester teenager who defiantly explains her life to an unseen therapist.

Kelly is an in-your-face teenager — riddled with a list of complaints. She’s far angrier, than Adrian Mole, the teenage hero of Sue Townsend’s acclaimed books, but reminiscent of his ability to humorously catalog every offense. Adrian is convinced he’s an intellectual born to the wrong parents. Also working-class, Kelly’s escapist fantasies are of the strictly teen variety: She longs for a belly ring and a chance to dance in a Malaga resort.

The child of a single mother, born in Ireland and raised in Northern England, Kelly is branded an “Irish gypo” by her nasty classmates, who find various ways to torture her — be it via reputation, sexual advances or petty but chronic annoyances.

To her credit, amid endless teen and parental travails, she endures. Forde nails every facial expression, snarky retort and dance move. (Dance is a chance to liberate her body from her emotional demons.) But it’s her ability to use Kelly’s story to expose the festering sores of neglect and working-class pathos that render her performance so heartfelt.

Beneath the diatribe and her seemingly tough exterior, Kelly reveals the pain parents inflict on children and the loneliness that bullying creates. She may be a victim of circumstance, but one leaves the theater rooting for her.  —Fern Siegel