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Rum and Vodka
To date, playwright Conor McPherson has devoted more than his fair share of words waxing poetic on drink and cigarettes. In 1999 his spare ghost story of a play, The Weir, received the Olivier Award for Best Play.
As Rum and Vodka, which McPherson wrote at the tender age of 20, is a monologue, casting is key. In Mark Alhadeff, McPherson has found his muse -- a perfect conduit for the material, which unspools more like a Bukowski short story, than an Irish drinking tale.
Our anti-hero holds down an office job in the suburbs of Dublin. He and his mates are fond of their daily routine -- a stopover at the pub after a hard day’s work. But somehow his devotion to drink spirals out of control, and Alhadeff finds himself at work fingered as being drunk. In a blind fury he hurls his MacIntosh through a window, which has the misfortune of crashing through his supervisor’s car. This sets in motion a lost weekend, where he puts away some 52 pints over a three-day period. In the course of this sad sack tale, we hear his backstory. While he courted a childhood sweetheart, he was forced into marrying a one-night stand, on account of her pregnancy. Despite having a responsible job with two kids and a wife, in one short weekend the glue of responsibility to his ad-hoc family, and himself, comes utterly undone.
With a wry wink here and a jot of contrition there, Mark Alhadeff achieves the impossible. He casts a tale of a self-destructive sod, but somehow he is a cad –- likeable, if not redeemable. Alhadeff’s seasoned dialect is hard won; to perfect it he sought out Irish ex-pats in Woodside, Queens to craft his taut, regional speech. The audience is rewarded for his efforts.
Rum and Vodka, a libation which is said to have the "power to wake the dead," is a ghost tale in a tumbler. Rather than a plea for forgiveness, it shows an Everyman enduring a sudden and fatal fall from grace. If you are the mood for a tale well-told, this is hard luck on the rocks, but with a twist.
Rum and Vodkas are available at the makeshift bar for a suggested donation of $3. Conor McPherson’s Dublin Carol will have its New York premiere at the Atlantic Theater next spring.
LINKS TO OTHER REVIEWS OF MCPHERSON PLAYS:
The Good Thief
This Lime Tree Bower Conor
The Weir (London)
The Weir (NY)
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by
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