It may not sound much like a comedy, but IS LIFE WORTH LIVING? by Irish playwright Lennox Robinson, has kept audiences at the Adobe Theater happily convulsed with laughter since it opened. The play continues performances through April 15.
Written in 1933 and originally called DRAMA AT INISH (an even less comedic title) the play was first performed at the Abbey Theater in Dublin and subsequently presented in London and on Broadway. The story revolves around a small, seaside hotel in 1930s rural Ireland. Deciding it's time to raise the intellectual tone of the place—and hoping to attract more summer visitors—the hotel's owner, John Twohig, brings in a touring theater group to replace the usual, bland, comic fare put on by the local theater, which he also owns. As it turns out, the De La Mare Repertory Company focuses on the works of Ibsen, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Strindberg, with devastating—and hilarious—consequences for the people of this peaceful, local community, who had never before contemplated such dark and disturbing topics as murder, madness, suicide and arson.
The visiting players are led by Hector De La Mare and his wife, Constance Constantia, who, consumed by their own importance, are oblivious to the impact their productions are having on the small town. They are also guests at the hotel, which is run by John's spinster sister, Lizzie, and contributes its own share of intrigue and romance to the unfolding story.
After being exposed to a daily dose of depressing and distressing murder and mayhem, the gentle townsfolk of Inish start reacting in uncharacteristic, 'copy cat' fashion, acting out in response to the morbid plays and suspecting each other of unsavory ulterior motives. What follows is a series of previously unknown dramas, inspired by the dark theatrical plots they have witnessed on stage. (The parallels are clearly evident from a brief synopsis, helpfully included in the program, of the plays put on by the traveling players.)
Scandals include arson, contemplated homicide, failed suicide pacts (a coin-fed meter runs out before the couple even passes out) and an unsuccessful suicide attempt by John's son, Eddie, who throws himself off the pier at low tide, after being rejected by Christine Lambert, the woman he refuses to give up on.
Realizing that his good intentions have gone seriously awry and with the town now yearning for its previously dull but peaceful existence, Mr Twohig dismisses the pretentious theater company players and returns to the safety of traditional circus entertainment.
The cast of 13, directed by Brian Hansen, does a great job, maximizing the opportunity for dramatic effect and comic timing. Joni L. Lloyd deserves a special mention as the melodramatic Constance and Philip J. Shortell is excellent as the whiskey-swilling John Twohig. The only weak point in the play is the final coming together of Eddie and Christine, which, through no fault of The Players, appears contrived.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening's entertainment, not to be missed!
Photo by Ossy Werner courtesy of the Adobe Theater.
IS LIFE WORTH LIVING? continues at the Adobe Theater through April 15. For tickets, call 505-898-9222 or visit www.adobetheater.org.
The Adobe Theater is located at 9813 Fourth Street, Albuquerque.