Review: That Same Old Story (Espresso Theatre Company, Town Hall studio)

'Charming, funny, and insightful' but play is a qualified success

Playwright and actor Gerry Conneely. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Playwright and actor Gerry Conneely. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

GERRY CONNEELY'S Espresso Theatre Company graced the Town Hall studio last week with his warmly funny, Valentine's-appropriate, love-themed musical play That Same Old Story.

The show featured two couples at restaurant tables; aging duo Frank and Maggie (Conneely and Colette Devaney ) who are facing into divorce, and the love-struck young pairing of Conor and Katie (Luke Morgan and Elizabeth Flaherty ) giddy with mutual admiration. While Frank lapses into quiet revery about football formations, to Maggie’s vexation, Conor and Katie dive deep into the loving pools of each other’s eyes. Completing the cast was musical accompanist Rocio Romero Grau, whose keyboard and singing enriched the production greatly.

Conneely’s writing carried wise and witty insight into the vagaries and pitfalls of mature romance and, acting-wise, Colette Devaney and himself were consistently impressive as the elder duo. The script was less sharp, it must be said, in the scenes focused on younger couple Conor and Katie. Perhaps this was simply down to youthful happiness being a less fruitful theme than middle aged disillusion.

However, as a writer, Conneely could have found more resonances between the two pairs. It was telling that one of the biggest laughs from the younger duo’s story was a line of Conor’s that closely echoed an earlier one of Frank’s. More parallels between the 'young’uns' and 'old’uns' would have boosted the play. While I’m in nit-picking mode, having Grau book-end the play with quotes from TS Eliot’s 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock' was an odd choice; the lines were a weak fit for the story. Also, an 80 minute show scarcely merited an interval.

Those niggles aside this was a charming, funny, and insightful play about love and relationships. Colette Devaney in particular turned in a lovely performance as the mature, unfulfilled yet self-possessed Maggie. The threading-through of classic jazzy love songs, ably sung by the cast, worked deliciously in decorating the play like a musical necklace. The company also did well in using their minimal resources to devise a red/black design motif for the play’s setting.

An enthusiastic and appreciative volley of applause greeted the show’s conclusion. The acclaim was well merited for all involved.

Espresso Theatre return to the Town Hall studio from Tuesday March 7 to Saturday 11 with a double bill of Frankeen Stein and Shakespeare in Connemara.

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