Preparations continue apace as Athlone Little Theatre imminently commences their 2023 season with the Brian Friel classic, 'Philadelphia, Here I Come!'.
Featuring a talented cast of 14, the renowned play will grace the stage at the intimate venue from March 9 to 16 inclusive.
Under the expert direction of Billy Nott, the audience will be transported back to Friel's Ballybeg, Donegal of the 1960s, on the day before, and the morning of Gar's departure to Philadelphia. Gar is the son of SB O’Donnell (Pat Canty ), a respectable shopkeeper and councillor, and is portrayed in the play by two characters – Gar Public (the Gar people see and talk about ) played by newcomer Josh Earley, and Gar Private (the unseen, the man within or his conscience ) by David Kelly.
The action takes place in the O’Donnell kitchen and Gar’s bedroom and includes several hilarious flashback episodes featuring a whole host of characters from Gar's life. Madge, the housekeeper, and a mother-like figure to Gar, is played by the experienced Chrissie Killian, who is Athlone Little Theatre's current chairperson and can also be seen on the silver screen following her successful turn as an extra in 'The Banshees of Inisherin'.
The main quartet is joined by a stellar group of supporting players who appear in some hilarious and touching flashbacks throughout the play, including several stage newcomers who play 'The Boys' or Gar's friends - Liam Sherringham is Ned, Aidan Ruane is Tom and Joe is played by Lecarrow's Alastair Beegan, while another newcomer Ronan McGrane is American Ben Burton.
Other more familiar faces include Ruth Quigley as Kate Doogan, Gar's lost love, the experienced Paul Gill is her father Senator Doogan, and Tullamore's Frank O'Brien is Master Boyle. The role of Lizzy Sweeney, Gar's aunt in Philadelphia who has persuaded him to travel across the pond is expertly played by Tina O'Hara, her husband Con is played by Brian Foy, and the Canon, a great friend of SB O'Donnell’s is portrayed by Clive Darling.
‘Philadelphia, Here I Come!’ is the play that launched Brian Friel onto the international stage back in 1964. Prior to his death in 2015, Friel was considered to be one of the best living dramatists in the English language and had been described as the ‘Irish Chekhov’ or the ‘voice of Ireland’ over the course of his lifetime. Recognised for his early works like ‘Philadelphia, Here I Come!’ and ‘Faith Healers’, his many plays have stood the test of time cementing his status as one of Ireland’s foremost playwrights. This drama, one of his most acclaimed, is a tragicomedy that features on the current Leaving Cert syllabus.
No production can happen with a lot of talented volunteers backstage and Athlone Little Theatre is very lucky in this regard. Hats off to set designer and builder Tom O'Neill, who has conjured up the split stage with aplomb, with the help of Anthony Merrigan, while assistant to the director Hélène Lepaon, is also stage manager alongside fellow stage manager Bróna McCormack.
Much gratitude is also afforded to Charlie Finneran in Derryglad Folk and Heritage Museum, Curraghboy and Ann Flannery for their help with props for this play.
Book your tickets now for the run from March 9 to 16 on www.athlonelittletheatre.ie or on the Eventbrite website. Please note the matinee performance on Sunday, March 12, at 3pm, is the only performance that day. All other performances commence at 8pm.
This amateur production of ‘Philadelphia, Here I Come’ is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd on behalf of Samuel French Ltd. www.concordtheatricals.co.uk