A ham sandwich can sooth a heart – a cup of tea can recalibrate a life – a sausage roll can sedate a tragedy. Funerals are wonderful occasions for caterers.
Lisa and The Other Lisa are the two characters in acclaimed Irish playwright Enda Walsh’s haunting short play, The Same. The conceit that The Other Lisa is Lisa 10 years ago is soon discerned. That’s achieved through Mr. Walsh’s alluring dialogue and stirring reveries which combine the poetic, the mundane and the cryptic. By the end of 47 entrancing minutes, one has experienced Lisa’s life in Ireland with its high points and disappointments.
The audience enters scenic designer Owen Boss brightly lit detailed four-sided clinical waiting room and chooses which padded seat to sit in. In the center there are two seats facing opposite each other between a table laden with magazines. Occasionally above the playing area, wry clips from television reality and game shows, including Judge Judy are broadcast. These add to the sense of being in the common room of a group residence or a medical facility holding area.
Also, when the audience arrives, actor Eileen Walsh (The Other Lisa) is sitting in one of the center chairs staring with focus. Eventually the lean, wiry and expressive Ms. Walsh launches into an engaging monologue recounting rain and marzipan. The formidable Catherine Walsh soon appears as Lisa. There are emotional clashes, shared memories and soothing reconciliations. A chief event is Lisa’s mother’s funeral. With their appealing Irish accents, sense of wit and impactful stage presences, Ms. Walsh and Ms. Walsh, who are sisters, offer searing performances.
In addition to guiding these galvanizing turns, director Pat Kiernan’s physical staging is as equally impressive. The performers are strategically placed and often in motion throughout, injecting momentum and visual élan. Michael Hurley’s lighting design narratively shifts from industrial brightness to red-tinged dimness to great effect. Sound designer Peter Power’s rendering of rain, incidental tones and his sweeping sometimes ominous score is accomplished.
The Same was commissioned, developed and first presented by the Irish
Corcadorca Theatre Company in 2016. This U.S. premiere with the original cast and creative team is produced by the Irish Arts Center.
In The Same, Enda Walsh employs the theatrical device of a bifurcated character with striking results.
The Same (through March 6, 2022)
Corcadorca Theatre Company
Irish Arts Center, 726 11th Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 888-616-0274 or visit http://www.irishartscenter.org
Running time: 50 minutes without an intermission