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LA Theater Review

The Hostage

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The Hostage
With an engaging, almost circus-like atmosphere, this unusual piece, written by Brendan Behan in the late 1950s, offers something for everyone. Laughter, tears, joy, and fear intertwine through a collection of wonderfully performed Gaelic tunes. Director McKerrin Kelly exposes the production's heart and soul. Even during the most chaotic moments, of which there are many, her guidance is evident.

But she couldn't have pulled off these remarkable results were it not for the nearly flawless cast, whose characters inhabit this Dublin brothel. This is an ensemble in every sense of the word. John McKenna and Jenn Pennington as the loving, yet sometimes bickering, proprietors maintain the show's momentum. McKenna, in particular, charmingly addresses the audience on numerous occasions. In less-skilled hands, this theatrical convention might come off as false or stilted.

The establishment's occupants include ragtag, gender-crossing prostitutes played with irreverent glee by Dan Conroy, Andra Carlson, and Casey Kramer. Their equally goofy customers include Vash Boddie and Marco Tazioli. John Schumacher gives a delightful turn as a nebbish boarder whose search for love leads him to the arms of a local social worker, played with scene-stealing abandon by Kacey Camp. Barry Lynch plays a kilt-wearing, bagpipe-honking revolutionary, barking orders at one and all.

Occupying the "normal" side of the story are Mark Colson and Levi Petree as two members of the Irish Republican Army, assigned to guard the play's title character. And here's where the play takes a decidedly serious turn. Patrick Joseph Rieger plays a British private abducted and held prisoner in the midst of this madness. Rieger and Amanda Deibert, playing a young Irish housekeeper, provide the dramatic juxtaposition to the otherwise farcical goings-on. Their beautifully understated scene work affords the audience time to regroup while the play builds to its bittersweet conclusion. Ultimately, the lessons learned from this moving production concerning the ravages of bigotry lend credence to the Irish saying "A man's fame lasts longer than his life."

Presented by Theatre Banshee at the Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. July 11–Aug. 16. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.
(818) 846-5323. www.theatrebanshee.org.

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