del Rosso’s Reviews: The Belle of Belfast

There’s some fine acting in quite a good play, “The Belle of Belfast” at the DR2 Theatre, New York’s Irish Rep’s temporary home off Union Square. “The Belle of Belfast,” by Nate Rufus Edelman, takes place in 1985 Belfast, at the height of “the Troubles.” At the center is Anne Malloy (Kate Lydic, fantastic) a half-tortured, half-brat of a 17 year-old, whose parents were killed in a bomb blast when she was 10 years old, leaving her in the care of her nutty great-aunt Emma Malloy (Patricia Conolly, delightful first-rate), a situation she resents bitterly. Because of the way her parents died, they have been extolled as “heroes,” which Anne hates. If she had a choice between a united Ireland and her parents, she confides, she would take her parents. This dia-logue is relayed to her 35 year-old local parish priest Anne is in love with, Father Ben Reilly (Hamish Allan-Headley, stoic and droll); he is the only one she believes listens to her, it is late at night, in the rectory, and they are alone in a room together.

It doesn’t matter that I could see their illicit union coming a mile off, because what Anne awakens in Father Reilly, or Ben, as he asks her to call him, is a conflict of faith not only in his sacred vows, but also in his country. Ben has eulogized countless people from Belfast who were murdered; he now sees that in his heart, he condoned the ongoing violence by believing what he did about Anne’s parents – that they were heroes. He chooses to leave Belfast, and not just because his elderly, irascible fellow priest, Father Dermott Behan (Billy Melody, excellent), has told him in no uncertain terms, after hearing his confession, to clear off. Heartbroken that Ben won’t take her with him, Anne leaves before he can, telling no one where she has gone.

“The Belle of Belfast” is beautifully directed by Claudia Weill. With effective staging, light-ing, music, and projections, she created an authentic mood in very small space. I particularly liked the split stage, when Anne was singing in the street and Ben was hunched over in his rectory chair, clutching his rosary beads, begging forgiveness from God.

The church is an invisible but powerful force in this play, yet there is not a cross in sight. The three main characters cling to the church: they begin, they return, and end in the church. More than family, more than politics, more than love, for them the church is the constant, and the inescapable.

But the play itself felt that it could have ended in one of three different places; in other words, I don’t think Edelman knew how to end the play. So after all that Anne goes through, she is still able to retain her basic character: she lies, she is flirty, but she has made an enormous sacrifice. Ben, meanwhile, has relocated to County Galway; he remained in the church, but is no longer in his beloved Belfast. When they both return for Aunt Emma’s funeral, Anne shares her unexpected news in the confessional, he responds with grim silence. There is no penance given by him nor penance for him to do. In some way, both have transformed. Both have had epiphanies but couldn’t share them. Perhaps, in that split stage, closing monologues on either side would have made a more satisfactory conclusion. Including

Arielle Hoffman as Anne’s only friend, Ciara Murphy, the performances and direction are enough to warmly recommend “The Belle of Belfast.” I liken the play to a small gem, with a chipped edge, marring its beauty.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

ONE 1 • you are here.

“What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times—and you were there.”
—Walter Cronkite


ONE 1 • Mean City to Big Apple I

Mean City to Big Apple I

Is it better to travel hopefully than to arrive?

JONATHAN PRYCE tells a tale of two cities—on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

August: Glasgow

Today the air is clear, but apprehension clouds my gaze into a rare bright blue sky. In just three weeks, I’ll begin my journey into the unknown: from Glasgow to New York City. Jersey City, to be specific. All part of the Big Apple, I suspect.


ONE 1 • Saving the Last Dance: Last FM and the End of the Music Industry

ANDREW B. SMITH tunes in, turns on and drops a bombshell.

{xtypo_quote}Will the UK’s spell the end of music radio as we know it? Some commentators think so, but the record industry aren’t happy.{/xtypo_quote}


ONE 1 • BLUE: Reflections from Ground Zero

REFLECTIONS from Ground Zero

Monday, 30 July 2007: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the sixth anniversary of 9/11 would not be held in the pit at Ground Zero, but instead at the nearby concrete Zuccotti Park.

The reason: “safety concerns”, now that construction is underway. After a public outcry from the victims’ families, threats of a lawsuit and boycott, the Mayor offered to meet with the families…

In 2005 and 2006, Geraldine Sweeney volunteered as an honor guard down in that pit. This is what she saw.



ONE 1 • Punchlines 1

Hot and cold running sonar


Not everything in the media is altered these days. Take a look at the photograph running above. Trust me, no pixels were harmed, or otherwise digitally manipulated, in the making of this picture.


ONE 1 • Tasting Notes: Vin More Thing

Regular readers of this column will recognize that its scribe places a premium on modesty, and so will be surprised to discover that I found myself marketed as an Edinburgh Fringe show throughout this last August. I can assure all such readers that they would have to multiply their own half-bottle of surprise by at least a jeroboam before they could approximate mine.


ONE 1 • Up for It: Original Fiction

Up for It

3 people. 2 sexes.

1 thing on their minds…

Fly Boy said:

Ony fliers? For roach. Cheers.

D’ye no ken the lassie? Ye must, man—she’s no exactly hard tae miss! She wis there the Saturday before last, at Luvely, wi that shower that come through fae Bathgate. read more —>

ONE 1 • When the Reverse is also True: a Conversation on Culture, Art and Literature

When the Reverse is also True: a Conversation on Culture, Art and Literature

On 21 August 2006 in Edinburgh, Martin Belk interviewed two esteemed men of letters and culture, Jim Haynes and John Calder.

On 21 August 2007, excerpts from that spry conversation opened an international web event entitled When the Reverse Is True, and I had the double privilege/honor as the international female participant of contributing by streaming live from the comfort of my New York living room, while moderator Martin Belk gathered Mr. Haynes, Mr. Calder and The Skinny editor Rupert Thomson before a live studio audience in Edinburgh to move the conversation about the future of culture, art and literature forward. read more —>