Dancing at Lughnasa


Contributed by Susan Monagan

Ithaca College Theatre will present Brian Frielís Dancing at Lughnasa, winner of three Tony Awards. Performances will be held at 8:00 p.m. on November 29 and December 1, 2, and 3, with 2:00 p.m. matinees on December 3 and 4. All performances will be held in the Clark Theatre, Dillingham Center. Tickets range in price from $4.50 to $10.00 and can be purchased at the Ithaca College Theatre ticket office in Dillingham Center or by calling (607) 274-3224. Group discounts are available.

Set in the 1930s, Dancing at Lughnasa focuses on five unmarried sisters living together in the Irish countryside. The household is made up of the imperious teacher Kate, the irreverent Maggie, the serene and steady Agnes, the sweetly eccentric Rose, and the romantic Chris, who has given birth to an illegitimate son, Michael. The women cling to their knitting needles and the radio, from which music enters the house to distract them from the inevitable change that has begun to overwhelm the simple pleasures and traditions of their village life. Young Michael cleaves to his kite, as his absentee father, Gerry, unexpectedly arrives on his motorcycle to stir the sistersí fires of passion. Meanwhile, the sistersí older brother, Jack, returns home from 25 years of missionary work, ill and disoriented, forgetting his sistersí names and further layering the playís themes of memory and forgetting.

The Lughnasa festival of light and rebirth provides the playís offstage backdrop and stirs up the conflict of pagan and Christian cultures. One by one, the sisters submit to the lure of the earth, dancing like dervishes, remembering pilgrimages to past dances and their lost innocence. Michael is the silent witness who will tell their story in its context of personal, cultural, emotional, and economic change.

Dancing at Lughnasa achieved critical acclaim and commercial success on Broadway in 1992. Friel has also authored Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Translations. In his plays, Friel examines the issue of memory on both a cultural and personal level.