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LA Theater Review

Never in My Lifetime

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Director Jocelyn A. Brown is glad that the decades-long Irish Republican Army battles with Britain have largely given way to attempts at peaceful negotiations. Yet she points out that in recent weeks, there have been news reports of political assassinations and other outbursts of violence in Northern Ireland. This underlines the reality that certain political conflicts in the world never go away. Brown chose to bring Shirley Gee's 1983 play Never in My Lifetime to Anaheim's Chance Theater for its West Coast premiere because she believes there are timeless lessons to be gleaned from its balanced and thoughtful depiction of the IRA movement and its ramifications.

Brown says many plays about the conflicts in Ireland tend to be propagandistic, but not this one. The issues are complex. "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," she notes. It is especially meaningful to her because many of her ancestors lived in Northern Ireland. She explains, "The play is a poetic illustration of how ordinary people justify and cope with conflict and terrorism, and how soldiers are affected through either the defense of their homeland or occupation of a foreign land." She notes that these issues resonate today in areas far beyond Ireland, adding, "I chose to direct it because of its universality on the effects of war and the human spirit's ability to find humor, love, and something precious amid these conditions."

The play, set in 1974 at the height of the rebellion, two years after the Bloody Sunday massacre, is composed of monologues interspersed with scenes, presented in a realistic style. There are six characters. The pivotal ones are a mother and a British soldier's wife; they provide perspective to the episodes, which lead to surprising conclusions.

Brown says the Chance has about 26 members and always holds open public auditions. The members must compete for the roles along with others who show up. The only preferential treatment members get is that they are allowed to show up at callbacks without attending the initial casting sessions. "We can tell which members really want to work for it, because they come to the auditions very prepared," notes Brown. "A big challenge in this show is the use of dialects." She adds that a good dialect coach became involved with the group a few years ago and yields fine results. In conclusion, Brown, who acts and directs at Chance, spoke of the company's casting philosophy: "We are not a showcase theatre. We always try to cast actors who are artists, ready to push themselves-take risks and really put themselves out there. We look for well-rounded artists willing to pull back their sleeves and work hard. No divas are allowed."

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