Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Cambria


The young Frederick Douglass spent six months in Ireland, finding there the morale boost he needed to continue his abolitionist crusade. I spent an hour and a half at the Irish Arts Center in New York on St. Patrick's day, getting my first taste of Donal O'Kelly's work. The Cambria concerns not Douglass's time in Europe but the ocean voyage itself. Mr. O'Kelly and director Raymond Keane bring it to life as a richly fictionalized tale of colorful figures and high drama at sea. Embodied by Mr. O'Kelly and Sorcha Fox — both superb actors — these people are by turns amusing, inspiring, and a little scary. The language is worthy of the mantle of the great Irish dramatists of the past — warm, poetic, funny, pained, sprightly yet always faintly weighted, but never bitter. The Cambria provides one of those concentrated, magical experiences one hopes for every time one takes one's seat in a theater.

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