| DENNIS KELLY |
IMAGE: Anni Becker
Conor McPherson is the world’s greatest raconteur. The Irish playwright and screenwriter, whose plays Shining City and The Seafarer were both big hits on Portland stages in recent years, is a master of the long-winded, colorful yarn, embellished with unexpected detail and ominous hints of the supernatural, spoken by hard-drinking louts with a pint in hand. Many of his plays turn on such stories, and This Lime Tree Bower, his third play and first big critical success, consists of nothing else.
There are three straight-backed chairs on a rough wooden stage, bare but for a burst of dry foliage that thrusts through the floor and around the rafters. In the chairs are three men: Joe (Matthew Micucci), a bored, sexually frustrated teenage boy from a small coastal town; Frank (Matthew DiBiasio), his bored older brother, who works in their father’s chippy; and Ray (Dennis Kelly), the bored, debauched philosophy professor who’s sleeping with their sister. They relate, by turns, the anything-but-boring events of one wild week involving trysts, armed robbery and an awful lot of drinking.
These intertwined stories are a gold mine of narrative treasures: a bookie whose nephew’s head is too large and face too small; strange, sexually ambiguous dreams, which are recounted without any attempt at interpretation; a shipwreck, possibly haunted; a sleazy disco decorated in pink neon; apocalyptic sexual fantasies; a miserable German philosopher who believes language is dying (a notion McPherson handily destroys). McPherson, never content to tell just one story, gives us a lifetime’s worth, filling out his little world like a sinister doll house. But for all these delights, This Lime Tree Bower would be a bore without some excellent acting, and CoHo’s production, directed and co-produced by Devon Allen, delivers. Dennis Kelly dominates the stage with his knees spread wide, a randy smirk on his lips and a devilish glint in his eye, as his story grows ever more outrageous—he bangs students, shows up to class drunk, throws tantrums in meetings and is generally, magnificently awful. You can’t miss this sleaze.
SEE IT: CoHo Productions and Our Shoes Are Red/The Performance Lab at The CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh St., 220-2646. 8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays. Closes June 12. $20-$25.