The Salvage Shop

"Tonight I sat in the hall and listened to the band, and I fell in love with imperfection," says Sylvie Tansey late in Irishman Jim Nolan's award-winning play The Salvage Shop. (It won the Sunday Independent/Ford Spirit of Life Award for play of the year.)

It's a good spirit in which to take the Storm Theatre's production. The Salvage Shop is vividly claustrophobic, like the set design by Todd Edward Ivins, which includes chairs suspended by ropes and an upstage scrim lit in bright blue and yellow.

Irish dramaturgy often rests on storytelling, and Act I consists almost entirely of character-establishing exposition. There is Sylvie Tansey (David Little), the patriarch and leader of a local brass band, who is dying of cancer; Sylvie's son Eddie (Paul Anthony McGrane), home to care for his father; Katie Tansey (Kristen Bush), Eddie's perky daughter, who works at a hotel run by Josie Costello (Ted McGuinness), the man who cheated with Eddie's ex-wife; Eddie's loyal girlfriend, Rita (Karen Eke), who is troubled by his emotional walls; and Sylvie's loyal friend Stephen (Roland Johnson).

Not much happens until the last scene of Act I, when Eddie tries to give his father a reason to hang on by promising to present Luciano Pavarotti in concert in Garris, their small Irish town.

With this question as the engine, Act II is much livelier. Without giving too much away, it's safe to say that "Will he or won't he come?" takes an interesting and powerful emotional detour.

Director Peter Dobbins clearly adores the play but has been a bit plodding with rhythm. The accents overall are grating (this critic's Irish guest winced). McGrane doesn't convey the repressed quality the character needs. Johnson's endearing Stephen insists, "Nothing is beyond redemption." As Sylvie, Little is a truthful curmudgeon. The play's final moment is nearly transcendent.