‘James Joyce’s The Dead’ is alive and swell

Capital Repertory Theatre has a hit on its hands. “James Joyce’s The Dead” is mesmerizing theater. S

‘James Joyce’s The Dead’

WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany

WHEN: Through April 5

HOW MUCH: $46-$31

MORE INFO: 445-7469

Capital Repertory Theatre has a hit on its hands. “James Joyce’s The Dead” is mesmerizing theater. Sensitively directed by Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the script, adapted from Joyce’s “The Dubliners,” is as literate a piece of stage work as you will find in this or any theatrical season.

The set (Ted Simpson) is rendered in rich sepia tones, carrying the patina of an age, but the play is as fresh as the snow that is falling “generally” over Ireland.

The beloved Morkan sisters, Julia (Carol Charniga) and Kate (Corine Salon) and their niece, Mary Jane (Angela Howell), are hosting their annual Christmastime party. They have invited family and friends to enjoy their hospitality, which is most plentiful. Though the ladies live a modest life, they insist on eating and drinking well. Their “three-shilling tea” and their holiday board groaning with a “fat brown goose,” a spiced ham and a round of beef is legend.

All this is present and apparent in this newly-minted play. But it is the music that tells the story. Adaptors Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey have incorporated songs that are telling and true. They do not interrupt the story line, but instead enhance it.

Each actor in this amazing ensemble does double and triple duty. Some are remarkable musicians, fiddling, playing the piano, cello and accordion with gusto, singing and dancing (as if no one was watching) — and acting too! And the production is acted beautifully.

Charniga does her best work ever as the reverenced (and lately disgraced) Aunt Julia. David Girard is remarkable for his nuanced performance as the drunken Freddy Malins. Don Noble doubles as both the narrator and Gabriel Conroy. His performance on both counts anchors the show. Leslie Dana, as Gretta the dutiful and tortured wife of Gabriel, gives a solid performance. Pat Reilly (Mrs. Malins), Emily Mikesell (Miss Molly Ivors), Fred Rose (Mr. Browne), and Erika Hebert (Lily, “the caretaker’s daughter”) all give reliable support.

But, again, it is the music that is the star of the show. And one wonders why this has not been done before.

The second act performance of “D’arcy’s Aria” by David Sutton (Bartell D’Arcy) is simply magnificent, turning the Cap Rep theater into an opera house. And the company’s rendition of “Wake the Dead” is a showstopper. “Naughty Girls” featuring Julia, Kate and Mary Jane (Angela Howell) is ribald and funny. “Michael Furey,” inspired by the young music student, Michael (Michael Hicks) and sung by Dana, is both tender and angry, and one of the final numbers, “When Lovely Lady Stoops to Folly,” rendered by the ghost of young Julia (Hebert) and Charniga gives Aunt Julia the most elegant death on record.

I must mention the clever, often humorous choreography by Sue Cicarelli-Caputo. She has given fancy footwork to some actors who are not necessarily trained in that discipline, and she has done it beautifully.

Costumes by Thom Heyer are period and picture perfect. And lighting by Stephen Quandt is superb, catching every nuance of the time and the technology.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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