Set in the fictional agricultural town of Baile Beag, Ireland in August 1833, “Translations” amusingly deals with England’s take over of Ireland, specifically the way England forcibly renames all the towns in the country to essentially eliminate the Irish language and replace it with English. Irish playwright Brian Friel wrote the play in 1980.
Centered around one group of townsfolk, the play cleverly but consistently brings about new and interesting characters. The issue at hand is excellently unfolded, being sure not to come off expository. It may take a few minutes in the beginning to realize why the townsfolk keep talking about English when, of course, to us, they are speaking English – but they’re supposed to be speaking Irish and they’re supposed to have no knowledge of how to speak English. It may have helped to clarify this in the beginning somehow, but once you realize it, all the following jokes surrounding it make sense and land quite well.
There were a lot of star performances in this production; I particularly found Doalty (played by Andrew Morris) and Hugh (played by Elliot Lieberman) to be the funniest actors on the stage. In times of drama, they were sure to bring about a laugh. I would also say the best Irish accents would probably go to Jimmy Jack (played by Pablo Hamlin) and Manus (played by Liam Blaney). But overall the cast gave an excellent and engaging performance, eloquently acting in every second of the play whether or not they were under the spotlight. This was done so well that I often found myself watching the background action rather than the foreground action because the actors were so engaged in their parts.
The set design was much bigger than I expected for the SFSU Little Theater and appeared to be well-crafted wood. I felt right in the middle of the action at all times and its’ spaciousness allowed for all the characters to graciously move about the stage. There was also a clever graphic design in the beginning, visually nodding to the central political issue within the play.
This play was excellently written, providing many sides and perspectives of one small group in a small town. I love the word play and the way it highlights how important language is to a culture. The biggest downfall, however, is the ending – it was incredibly unsatisfying. I can appreciate open-ended stories, but I struggle when it feels the story has built up an enormous issue and literally stops in the middle.
All this to say, it was an excellent production and I highly recommend seeing it!
It runs from December 4-14, 2014 at the SFSU Little Theatre.
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