Translations, a CurtainUp review CurtainUp

The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings






Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

Butterfly Valves,Globe Valves,Plug Valves link check valve, ball valve, valves Butterfly valves 2011.06.05, Gate valve,, Ball Valves,Gate Valves,Check Valves globe valve, butterfly valves, flange
China Valve manufacturer and Supplier

A CurtainUp Review

Garry Hynes production of Brian Friel's Translations Settles In at the Biltmore On Broadway

Niall Buggy in Translations
Niall Buggy in MTC's production of Brian Friel's Translations.
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Simon Saltzman's review of Translations when it opened at the McCarter Theater covers the play and Garry Hynes' staging and the performances accurately and completely (see below this boxed off text), leaving me with just a few comments after seeing it at MTC's Biltmore Theater.

Has the problem about some of the translation literally getting lost in the large New Jersey venue been resolved in the less massive Broadway house and after the director did some additional work with her actors? While the Biltmore is indeed a warm and slightly intimate feeling venue and its stage shallower than the McCarter’s Matthews Theater, neither is it intimate in the sense of an Off-Broadway space accommodating a more limited audience. And so, while the actors seem to be doing their utmost to project, unless you're seated in the front section of the orchestra (no further back than row H at maximum), the issue of not hearing and enjoying all of Friel's words has not disappeared on the way across the Hudson. That said, even in a truly intimate space this is not a play you" get into" instantly. For all of Translation's ability to amuse and animate, it takes concentration to comprehend what's going on in this village still known as Baile Beag when overrun long ago by British colonial masters bent on anglicizing everything, even the street names. It takes a bit to appreciate Friel's adventurous juggling of Gaelic, English, Greek and Latin.

While Lincoln Center may have gone overboard in providing audiences with background on the Russian history covered in Tom Stoppard's Coast of Utopia, MTC has gone too far in the opposite direction. A few dramaturgical notes about this late 18th, early 19th century period in Irish history would help many in the audience to feel less at sea initially.

None of these actors have names associated with box office wattage like last year's production of The Faith Healer, but this is offset by the pleasures of watching this cast's interaction — especially the scene that tenderly and with great humor illustrates the language barrier being bridged by the star-crossed lovers Lieutenant Yolland (Chandler Williams) and Maire (Susan Lynch). That love scene is like a great aria in an opera but one that needs neither music or words to translate their feelings. Neither do we need words to see the symbolism of Manus's lameness (David Constable) as he ascends the long wooden staircase that dominates Francis O'Connor's sod covered set — his slow and painful movements are a telling comment on the agonizing go-nowhere pace of his life.

As Chekhov's influence is evident in much of Friel's work, seeing his work underscores his influence on young playwrights like Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson whose work insures that the great tradition of Irish story telling is alive and well.

Links to Other Friel Play Reviews
Translations-London Production
The Faith Healer-London
The Faith Healer-Broadway
Friel Lincoln Center Summer Festival: The Aristrocrats, Freedom of the City,Uncle Vanya
Give Me Your Answer DO!
Philadelphia Here I Come -Williamstown Theatre Festival

The current production's production notes as follows:
By Brian Friel
Directed by Garry Hynes
Cast: Niall Buggy (Hugh), David Costabile (Manus), Alan Cox (Owen), Dermot Crowley (Jimmy Jack), Michael Fitzgerald (Doalty), Morgan Hallett (Sarah), Geraldine Hughes (Bridget), Susan Lynch (Maire), Graeme Malcolm (Captain Lancey) and Chandler Williams (Lieutenant Yolland). Set and Costume Design: Francis O’Connor
Lighting Design: Davy Cunningham
Original Music: Sam Jackson
Sound Design: John Leonard
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes including intermission
Manhattan Theatre Club In association with the McCarter Theater at the Biltmore Theatre 261 West 47th Street, 212/239-6200
From 1/04/07 to 3/11/07; opening 1/25/07
Running Time:2 hours and 15 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission
Tickets: $86.25 to $56.25.
Tuesday to Friday @ 8pm, Saturday @ 2pm & 8pm, Sunday @ 2pm & 7pm; after January 22nd: Tuesday to Saturday @ 8pm, Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday @ 2pm

Translations at the McCarter Theater By Simon Saltzman
I am proud to translate the quaint archaic tongue you speak into the King’s English.— Owen

Coinciding with the acquisition by the Princeton University Library of a significant and valued collection (more than 1,000 items) of classic, contemporary and rare Irish dramatic literature is Irish playwright Brian Friel’s 1980 play Translations, as staged by the McCarter Theatre. The plans for this co-production with the Manhattan Theatre Club include a transfer to MTC’s Broadway venue the Biltmore Theater.

Under the studied and deferential direction of Garry Hynes, Tony award-winner for The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Translations seems to have lost some of the translation in the large expanse of the McCarter’s Matthews Theater. Hopefully, it will recover its inherent ability to amuse and admonish us in the shallower depths of the Biltmore. Hearing Friel’s lovely words distinctly is clearly an issue, and a disconcerting one, that should be addressed by the director and the fine company of actors charged with delivering them.

Ironically, words matter less in the play’s most memorable scene when a Gaelic-speaking peasant girl and a British soldier have a romantic, understandably humorous cross-cultural flirtation without either able to comprehend a word the other is saying. In another delightful scene, a whiskey-swigging, Gaelic-speaking old Irish schoolmaster, who evidently never heard of order in the classroom, lavishes upon his often preoccupied peasant students the glories of the Latin and Greek cultures and languages. This he does with relish, as he also tries to come to terms with the invasion of the English and their language into his world. Although the play contains some Gaelic, the dialogue is in English even when characters are speaking Gaelic.

This beautifully written, if sad, study of the erosion of an aesthetically graced culture is set mostly in an outmoded hedge school in the town-land of Baile Beag/Bally Beg, in the community of County Donegal. The year is 1833, just four years after the Catholic Emancipation and a brigade of British Redcoats is enforcing an edict — that all Irish place names be translated into English. While it is both painful and somewhat mournful to see these earthy people, who for centuries have been exalted by their paradoxically floridly imaginative language, suddenly being reduced to "standardized" English, it is seen as only part of the educational, social and political upheaval that alters the relationships in Friel’s informed play.

If at first the well-intentioned, benign and presumably supportive changes and sudden linguistic barriers don’t exactly create an upheaval among Friel’s rather complacent flock in their newly administered society, the cautious optimism of both Hugh (Niall Buggy), the intellectually stirring schoolmaster, and his one son, Owen (Alan Cox), now a successful Dublin businessman who works for the British as an interpreter, is soon to turn a little sour. Manus (David Costabile), the other son, who has remained as heir to his father’s tutorial legacy, remains pessimistic about the invaders’ long-term effect. Lame since infancy, Manus also becomes increasingly despondent by the kindling romance between his once intended girlfriend Maire (Susan Lynch) and the handsome, eager-to-be-assimilated Lieutenant Yolland (Chandler Williams).

The sad dichotomy of a family of scholars, and the misguided good intentions of a favored nation upon a resolutely insularly spiritual people, resound throughout the play. Not so paradoxically, the play resonates poignantly in light of the Americanization of Iraq. Certainly the British, among other gestures, will build new schools to replace the makeshift hedge schools and reassess the taxes for the common good. The set, the creation of designer Francis O’Connor, is an old grey almost barren barn, notable for its massive shaky doors and a wooden stairway without guard rails leading to the rafters. Davy Cunningham’s atmospheric lighting, that includes a downpour, enhances the mood.

Hynes has directed the play with unhurried control, and has assuredly kept tabs on its colloquial unity. Garbed in worn out tail-coated attire that occasionally includes a beaten-up top hat, Buggy makes as fine looking a leprechaun as he does a doleful-eyed, but aesthetically uplifted schoolmaster. Williams, the lover cum Baile- Beag-struck soldier, is convincingly romantic and dashing as the young Romeo. Lynch is spirited and appealing, as the infatuated lass who yearns to understand him.

Costabile’s bitter Manus extracts our empathy as he concedes both the loss of his lover and the relinquishing of his opportunity at the British school. Morgan Hallett turns in a fine performance as an almost mute girl. Equally well characterized are Dermot Crowley, as Jimmy, the barn’s constantly "potted" intellectual; Michael Fitzgerald, as the doltish Doalty and Graeme Malcolm, as the brash British captain. Translations is less a perfect play than a carefully textured poignant portrait of a people who cherished their language and of a country that had no say in its future. The play’s dramatic rewards, including its gentle humor, are almost too subtly observed, but nevertheless deserving of the attention of a thoughtful audience.

By Brian Friel
Directed by Garry Hynes
Cast: David Costabile, Morgan Hallett, Dermot Crowley, Susan Lynch, Michael FitzGerald, Geraldine Hughes, Niall Buggy, Alan Cox, Graeme Malcolm, Chandler Williams.
Set and Costume Design: Francis O’Connor
Lighting Design: Davy Cunningham
Original Music: Sam Jackson
Sound Design: John Leonard
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes including intermission
A co-production between the McCarter Theatre Center and Manhattan Theatre Club
Matthews Theatre at the McCarter Theater Center, 91 University Place, Princeton, N.J. (609) 258 — ARTS (2787),
From October 8 to October 29, 2006 opening on October 13, 2006
Tickets: $33.00 to $46.00
Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on performance October 13, 2006
broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

The Broadway Theatre Archive>


©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from