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A stilted political drama set in a Belfast pub as two middle-aged men confront each other about the bombing 36 years earlier that disrupted both of their lives.

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Patrick O’Kane, Robert Zawadzki and Declan Colon in the Abbey Theatre’s production of “Quietly” at the Irish Rep (Photo credit: James Higgins)

Patrick O’Kane, Robert Zawadzki and Declan Colon in the Abbey Theatre’s production of “Quietly” at the Irish Rep (Photo credit: James Higgins)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

The award-winning, Northern Ireland-born playwright Owen McCafferty’s stilted 75-minute political drama Quietly takes place in a Belfast pub in 2009.  52-year-old Ian arrives there to meet with the 52-year-old Jimmy to make amends for throwing the bomb that killed Jimmy’s father along with five other men 36 years earlier.  The repercussions of this dreadful act that occurred when they were each 16, on them and the Northern Ireland Protestant and Catholic conflict, are explored in the course of a fitfully compelling grim play.

Mr. McCafferty skillfully delineates his characters and has crafted a dramatic situation that though is specific has a universal quality.   The dialogue has authenticity and the play is solidly structured.  By its nature it does fall into the familiar pattern of the wronged clashing with the instigator of his misfortune.

“The characters in this play both the living and the dead are completely fictional.”  This statement explains the play’s overall contrived quality.  Both of the lead characters have such striking similarities that at times they come across as mouthpieces academically articulating “The Troubles,” the 30-year war in Northern Ireland between The British and Catholic natives that ended in 1998.

McCafferty cleverly adds a third character, a wry Polish immigrant bartender and has a soccer game on television that’s a welcome object of banter.  Thankfully the production has accomplished actors in it that elevate the script. Initially their strong and no doubt accurate national accents are a bit thick to fully comprehend but they all eventually achieve clarity.

Wiry, shaven-headed and magnetic Patrick O’Kane is commanding as Jimmy.  Veering from jocular to intense, Mr. O’Kane burrows into the core of this lost soul and delivers a powerful performance.  O’Kane is heartbreaking when describing the trajectory of this character’s tragic fate and inability to successfully cope with it.

Robert Zawadzki as Robert the bartender winningly combines comic relief and depth with his charming low-key presence.  Mr. Zawadzki’s delivery is precise and he sensationally reacts and steps back into silence when required.

Robert Zawadzki and Patrick O’Kane in the Abbey Theatre’s production of “Quietly” at the Irish Rep (Photo credit: James Higgins)

Robert Zawadzki and Patrick O’Kane in the Abbey Theatre’s production of “Quietly” at the Irish Rep (Photo credit: James Higgins)

As the underwritten catalyst Ian, the calculatedly muted Declan Conlon is stalwart and straightforward.  Mr. Conlon measured performance is highly effective.

Director Jimmy Fay has staged this small-scale work that’s essentially a series of interactive monologues with technical flair.  There is as much integrated movement as possible by the cast.  Donal O’Farrell’s fight direction has several exciting sequences.

Scenic designer Alyson Cummins’ richly detailed pub is realistic and immersive.  Lighting designer Sinéad McKenna’s efforts subtly convey the moodiness of this piece.  Philip Stewart’s sound design adeptly brings in the unseen television soccer match and other tones adding a sense of the world outside of the pub.  Costume designer Catherine Fay has outfitted the trio naturalistically.

The Abbey Theatre presented the premiere of Quietly in 2012.  It was then performed at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013 and in London in 2014 at the Soho Theatre.  The Irish Repertory Theatre presents this U.S. premiere in association with The Public Theater. 

Quietly is a theater piece that’s well rendered but is characterized by being overly schematic and doesn’t quite soar to the profound heights it aspires to.

Quietly (through September 11, 2016)

The Abbey Theatre production

Presented by the Irish Repertory in association with The Public Theater

Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-727-2737 or visit

Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (794 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for

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