Local theater fans have a unique opportunity to experience a pair of excellent West Coast premieres as Burbank's Theatre Banshee presents the repertory performance schedule of "War" and "The Field."
Utilizing designer Arthur MacBride's spacious Irish pub set for both productions, Banshee co-founder Sean Branney's directorial work demonstrates a depth and insight rarely seen in Los Angeles area small theaters.
On the Saturday these pieces were reviewed, novelist/playwright Roddy Doyle's outrageously funny "The Field" occupied the matinee slot.
A group of rowdy residents from the Dublin neighborhood of Barrytown convene at the Hiker's Rest, a local watering hole, for a regularly scheduled Quiz Night, or as we Americans would refer to it, a game of Trivial Pursuit.
Three teams of four players each are located onstage with the audience referred to as the remaining forty-plus teams.
Actor Tim Cummings plays the pivotal role of George, a blue-collar laborer whose team always seems to blow the chance to finish the quiz in first place.
Cummings delivers an award worthy performance as he runs the gamut from sheer exhilaration to nearly murderous rage depending on how the contest is progressing.
Just as commendable are Donald Agnelli, Andrew Graves and Kevin Stidham as George's put-upon teammates Martin, Features and Gary.
Across the stage lurk their toughest opponents, a team of perpetual hecklers played with limitless zest by Daniel Kaemon, Lance Holt, Erin Noble and Cameron Oro.
Adding outstanding support are Dan Conroy as Leo, the pub owner; Alice Ryan as Sandra, the agitated waitress; Andrew Leman as the harassed quiz questioner; and Kacey Camp as George's wife, Briget, who appears in a number of flashback scenes that take place on a loft-like, upstage kitchen set.
Returning for the evening performance, I was treated to a decidedly different story in John B. Keane's "The Field", a darkly tinged drama surrounding the sale of a piece of prime pasture land.
Though perhaps not a particularly earth shattering event on which to base a play, Keane's script lays bare the effects of man's coveting another's earthly belongings.
Maggie Butler, an elderly widow played with subtle brilliance by Rebecca Wachler, places her land on the auction block.
A neighboring farmer and longtime renter of the property, the loutish Bull McCabe, conspires to fix the sale to acquire the property at a much lower price.
As McCabe, Barry Lynch offers some of his finest work to date capturing the unrefined yet worldly wisdom of a man who makes his living with the sweat of his brow.
The arrival of a stranger expressing interest in the acreage sets the wheels in motion that leads the entire village down the road to ruin.
In the case of each of these two theatrical gems, to divulge the expert ways in which their respective authors end the works would be a disservice to potential audience members.
By successfully mounting two uniquely different stand-alone productions, both using the same Irish pub set design, Theatre Banshee and director Branney offer audiences a lively and complementary double bill of comedy and drama.
DINK O'NEAL, an actor and member of the American Theatre Critics Assn., lives in Burbank.
What: "War" and "The Field" (running in repertory)
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday until Dec. 12
Where: The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
Tickets: $16 to $18.
Contact: (818) 846-5323 or visit http://www.theatrebanshee.org