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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Biltmore, New York

By Robert Cashill

  (Pictured, L-R) Graeme Malcolm, Susan Lynch, Alan Cox, Chandler Williams - Photo Joan Marcus, 2006

Entrancing. There is no other way to describe Brian Friel's lyrical drama Translations, which has returned to the Manhattan Theatre Club, where it made its U.S. debut in 1981.

It's unlikely, though, that the piece has ever been as strongly defined as it has been in this staging, under the sure-footed direction of Garry Hynes. There is tremendous poetry in his loving portrait of his mythic Irish town, Baile Beg, in the early 19th century, where literacy is taking root among its citizens-but these gains, along with family ties, are stealthily being erased by the "civilizing" British, who are taming Ireland's wild Gaelic tongue by translating all place names into the more prosaic King's English. Baile Beg will become Ballybeg, and losses as keen are experienced by the characters. In the play's most spellbinding sequence Maire, a restless beauty (captivatingly played by Susan Lynch) falls for a redcoat topographer (Chandler Williams) despite their language gap; she is beloved by the lame schoolteacher, Manus (a moving David Costabile), who is unable to keep her from straying, and is further upset that his brother Owen (Alan Cox), the pride of the family, is interpreting for the British expedition.

The delicate relationships that Friel conjures are forcefully altered by play's end as history aligns itself toward bloody conflict, but Translations is no blunt instrument, and Hynes, a perfect cast, and a fittingly elemental design make magic of its attempt to communicate.


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