The Artistic Home presents
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
‘Do you love me?’ ‘Go away fool!’ It’s a question of importance. What really matters most? Love. Money. Land. Family. The Artistic Home presents the world premiere of THE TALLEST MAN by Jim Lynch. It is 1895 in County Mayo, Ireland. A superstitious village is influenced by the ghostly memory of a famine victim. The townsfolk are haunted by the past, present and future. They continue to battle poverty, British landlords and each other. They each want ‘something they don’t have here.’ Katie wants the new world. Finbar wants Katie. Breda wants her daughter. Andrew wants power. Frankie wants revenge. Tommy Joe and Johnny want another ‘glass of the brown medicine.’ THE TALLEST MAN is a complicated tale of control. Who’s got it? How did they get it? In the Irish tradition of spinning a good yarn, Lynch has penned a dramatic charmer complete with a banshee, bedlam, and booze.
The Irish are a passionate people. Director John Mossman uses physicality to heighten emotions. Whether it’s scrambling to get a shot of whiskey or slapping down a gobshite, Mossman captures the slapstick or rage with tight choreographed timing. Shane Kenyon (Finbar) plays it happy-go-lucky. In one scene, Kenyon describes a gambling trip with energetic animation. His charisma is so likable that nothing else is expected from him but a winning smile and wit. Marta Evans (Katie) plays an Irish woman perfectly, practical romantic. Evans is torn between the man she loves and the man she wants to love. It’s the same guy with her list of improvements. Evans is feisty and confronts the bar drunks and her mother with equal fervor. Her mother, Miranda Zola (Breda) boils over with rants worthy of initiating a massive heart attack. After one fury frenzy, she plummets to freezing with a ‘he squeezes the wind of the devil out of me’ unapologetic confession to her priest. Frank Nall (Tommy Joe) and Bill Bohler (Johnny) are the colorful town drunks. Nall and Bohler are ‘hilarious, altogether’ as two idjits entertaining themselves with whiskey laced stories.
The entire cast does a grand job of transporting the audience to Ireland with humanity delivered with a strong accent. The Irish lilt (Christine Adair- dialect coach) is so authentic that I miss some of the dialogue. Unlike when I’ve actually been in Ireland, I’m not able to have the person repeat the joke. Despite my hearing deficiency, the story still intrigues with surprising character complexity. THE TALLEST MAN translates family drama on stage Irish style. The villagers survive with daily shots of insults and whiskey. Sláinte to a good run!
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Going for the global experience, we dine at Andersonville’s French bistro, La Tache, 1475 W. Balmoral. Roger and I go spiltzies on the chicken entrée. It is served on sautéed greens with slices of bacon and a sweet mustard ripple circling the plate. The chicken is moist and tender delicious. We also ordered a side of grits with blue cheese. I’m not a big fan of grits because of the sticky rice texture. Anything served with cheese warrants a try. These grits present like lumpy cream of wheat. It doesn’t even look or feel like grits. The blue cheese is faint at best. It’s gruelish. Neither Roger nor I have more than a teaspoon. There is an opportunity to solicit feedback on our grit enjoyment but the tallest server opts not to inquire. Bill orders steak and frites. He chooses the blue cheese sauce from the three optional toppings. I secure a bite. The steak has been cooked perfectly. Topped with the blue cheese sauce, it’s a tasty bite. One of my favorite Irish men, Bill also shares his fries. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, he’s no gobshite!