Nobody ever wants to take this boat. Nobody, not even a girl who falls for her glittering asshole of a boss, wants to see it end here. Crying into these polyester blankets because all the crying has to be over by the time I get home.
says Bridget to Grainne in Irish playwright Eavan Brennan’s absorbing one-act play Get the Boat that tackles the topical issue of abortion in contemporary Ireland.
Though designed as an agitprop exploration with one woman as “Bad” and the other as “Good,” Ms. Brennan’s simple yet effective writing elevates it into a quietly powerful work. The dialogue is a skillful blend of mundane details, biographical data and expressions of world views that all strongly delineate the characters. The structure is essentially two women in their 30’s in a room talking. Brennan’s command of plotting injects suspense, surprises and momentum, all combined with emotional resonance.
Bridget is an unmarried mother of a young son who works in an office. Grainne is happily married to a farmer and has two sons. They’re total strangers who share a cabin on a passenger ship headed to England. Each plan to have an abortion for distinct reasons and since it’s illegal in Ireland they have to travel to obtain it. Over the course of a taut yet eventful 45-minutes we learn why they’ve made their profound decisions and their clashing feelings about it.
The dark-haired and captivating Siobhan Donnellan is delightfully feisty and vulnerable as Bridget. Ms. Brennan portrays the God-fearing salt of the earth Grainne with emphatic charm. Brennan’s warmth and animated presence adds depth and likability that counter the character’s harshly congruous beliefs. Ms. Donnellan and Brennan have a complex and convivial rapport that realistically realizes their random relationship.
Director Ruth Smith manages to add visual sparkle to this static situation with her adept staging. The mere scenic design is two beds and a table. The lighting design is steady and the sound design warmly renders the Irish songs that are heard.
Get the Boat ably dramatizes conflicting views on abortion through its well-drawn characters and ultimately is on the side of freedom of choice. Considering the present political climate in the United States, its message is extremely timely.
The play was first performed in April at the 2018 Limerick Fringe festival. For this United States premiere, a video prologue has been added that is projected onto a cloth screen that’s center stage. It consists of a five-minute montage of Irish television broadcasts that illustrates the contentiousness of the subject and imparts informative data for American audiences. On May 26, 2018, a referendum was held that overturned a 1983 constitutional amendment that banned abortion but allowed for citizens to obtain it abroad. Now the matter of abortion is up to the Irish Parliament to legislate.
Playing in repertory with Get the Boat is Colette Forde’s Innit which also appeared at the Limerick Fringe festival. This program is presented by the SoHo Playhouse and is billed as “Two Irish Female Playwrights
In their American Debut.”
Get the Boat (through August 5, 2018)
Holy Show Theatre Company
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212 691–1555 or visit http://www.SoHoPlayhouse.com
Running time: 45 minutes with no intermission