In the theatre, the only thing more reliably dysfunctional than the American family is the Irish family, and Shona McCarthy offers a prime example of the latter in this low-key, lyrical drama.
Set in a small fishing village near Galway, Married to the Sea echoes Synge's Riders to the Sea in its feel for the hazardous and hardscrabble lives of its characters. The basic dynamic of grinding poverty, wayward husbands, and embittered wives is a rather overfamiliar staple of Irish literature, but what sets Married to the Sea apart is the child's-eye perspective of Jo, the play's 8-year-old narrator, who is played with wide-eyed guilelessness by an adult actor, Siobhan Donnellan. Author McCarthy, who also plays the family's grim-lipped and mentally unstable matriarch, wisely allows for ambiguity in the central relationships; we never know for sure whether Mam's coldness toward her husband (Fiachra Ó Dubhghaill) is a response to his philandering or the cause of it.
Presented by Dragonfly as part of the New York International Fringe Festival
at the Linhart Theatre @ 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St., NYC.
Aug. 10-18. Remaining performances: Mon., Aug. 13, 9:45 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 18, 1 p.m.
(212) 279-4488 or (888) 374-6436 or www.fringenyc.org.