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Bold Girls

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For a play with the title "Bold Girls," Rona Munro's portrait of working-class women in West Belfast circa 1990 is shockingly tame. Only in the last few minutes of the drama do any of the ladies really assert themselves. And yet, it is often in the moments of quiet strength and despair that these admirable females display their true mettle.

Marie is a newly single mother of two, an unassuming widow who is constantly doing laundry for others. (Fittingly, garments and bed sheets on clotheslines dominate Mark Symczak's set design.) Joining in the daily ritual are Cassie and her mother, Nora, both dear friends of Marie. All the women seem spunky and self-sufficient, not dependent on men or anybody else. However, their personal struggles are just as unsettling to them as the explosive activities raging in the streets outside. Their resolve repeatedly gets tested, particularly with the arrival of Deirdre, a young girl carrying malice toward everyone -- and a troubling secret.

Munro captures the authentic voice and spirit of the Irish people in this universal look at life and love. Ludovica Villar-Hauser directs the proceedings with a realistic eye for detail, making even the smallest of actions matter. Unfortunately, because of the overly natural level of most of the show, some of the histrionics at the end of the second act appear forced and overplayed.

As Marie, Susan Barrett manages to be demure yet determined. Paula Ewin is a powerhouse to be reckoned with as Nora. Carefree Cassie gets a raucous reading from Heidi James. Moira MacDonald is an unsettling presence as the young woman who mysteriously appears at the most inopportune times.

Christopher Lione contributes mightily with his character-defining costumes, as do Douglas Cox and Tim Cramer with subtle lighting and sound, respectively.

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