The world premiere of “The 8th”, written and directed by Seanie Sugrue, opened on January 7 at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City and will run through Saturday, January 18. Sugrue was nominated for Best Screenplay Narrative Feature (2017) for the film “Catch 22: based on the unwritten story by Seanie Sugrue” at the Queens World Film Festival. His independent film “Misty Button” won the “Audience Choice Award’ at the Soho International Film Festival in 2019 in New York, where the Irish-born writer and director now lives.
“The 8th” takes place on May 24 and 25, 2018, during the evening before and the day when Ireland voted on whether to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, after a campaign that was contentious on both sides and riveted the country for months. A year after their father’s death, Saoirse and Tomas Scanlon return to County Kerry for his one-year anniversary mass. According to director Seanie Sugrue, the Scanlon family home is very similar to that of the house he grew up in Kerry, and mention should be made of the set design by Amanda Martin, Kimberly Matela, and Patrick Scherrer: every detail of the kitchen where the action takes place is pitch-perfect.
As the mysterious circumstances of the death of Dennis Scanlon (a poignant and all-too-brief appearance by Gerard McNamee Jr.) are recalled, preparations are made for a priest to say a mass in the house while outside voters are going to the polls. As those who have lost a parent know, the dynamic between siblings inevitably changes, for better or worse. Saoirse (Julia Nightingale) and Tomas (Shane McNaughton) do a deep dive and lay bare the complexities of the relationship between the reluctantly-returning immigrant brother and the passionately pro-choice sister who dutifully comes back from nursing school every Sunday to visit her mother. Interjections from Tomas’s sweetly bewildered American girlfriend Melanie (Laurissa “Lala” Romain), Saoires’s boyfriend, the delightfully despicable Declan (Phil Burke), and inquisitive neighbor Bridget (a hilarious part was deftly taken by Katherine O’Sullivan) add fuel to the flames as tensions rise inside the house and secrets are revealed. While Finnula Scanlon (Una Clancy) dispenses the essential procession of endless cups of tea and wrangles houseguests, nosy neighbor and the overly-sociable but charming Father Frank (John Warren), her luminous performance unravels our pre-conceived notions of the typical “Irish Mammy”. And indeed by the conclusion of this highly satisfying drama (with a well-deserved standing ovation on the opening night), we realize that none of the characters were quite what we first took them to be.
The 8th has a short run, so don’t miss your chance to make it the first play you see in 2020. You can purchase tickets here: performances on Wednesday January 8, Thursday January 9, Friday January 10, Tuesday January 14, Wednesday January 15, Thursday January 16 and Friday January 17 are at 8 pm. There will be performances at 2 pm on Sunday January 12 and 2 pm and 8 pm on Saturday January 11 and Saturday January 18.
“The 8th” is part of the 12th annual Origin Theatre’s Ist Irish Festival which runs from January 7th to February 3rd, 2020. The world’s only theatre festival dedicated to showcasing the work of contemporary Irish writers, Origin 1st Irish is New York’s only all-Irish performing arts festival.
Photo credit: Clare Doyle