The Luck of the Irish
Most families long to live the American Dream, owning a beautiful house in a safe neighborhood, with a big backyard, picket fence, the whole nine yards ; but for a large number of Americans - white Americans - it became a reality in the Post-War years, when suburban communities grew up outside major cities and "white flight" became a reality. For minority families in the 1950s, this Dream could not become a reality without jumping through several hoops.
"Ghost buying"is an aptly titled phrase for how minority families went about purchasing homes during that time period and it's used as the central plot device in Kirsten Greenidge's "The Luck of the Irish," having its world premiere at the Huntington Theatre Company.
Set in a fictional Boston suburb called Bellington, her drama tells the story of an African American couple, Lucy and Rex Taylor, looking to buy a home in a good neighborhood where they can move for their two young daughters' sake and their own comfort too.. In order to do so, they turn to an Irish couple, Joe and Patty Ann Donovan, to pose as buyers. In exchange for signing over the house to the Taylors, the financially strapped Donovans would receive $1500.
The play takes place during the 1950s, showing the Taylors and their doubts and fears about obtaining the house as well as the tension between the young Donovans. Joe is ready and willing to help the young couple achieve their dream. Patty Ann believes she and her husband deserve more for their part in the transaction.
Laced in between are scenes from the early 2000s. Lucy Taylor has just passed away and has left the house to granddaughters Hannah and Nessa, except that the elderly Donovans believe the house now rightfully belongs to them and have returned to claim it.
Greenidge’s script coupled with director Melia Bensussen’s seamless staging, leave the audience on the edge of their seats until the very end.
What’s remarkable about the script is that there are so many layers and various parallels shared between the two distinct time periods. The Taylors moved into the neighborhood in order to give their children a chance at the best education possible in the 1950s. Flash forward to the politically correct 21st century where Hannah is doing everything within her power to make sure her young son Miles is more than just a "token" amongst his classmates. It’s an all too chilling reminder that society has a long way to go with breaking down racial barriers.
The cast is wonderful as an ensemble and each individual performance is worth noting: Nikkole Salter is compelling as Lucy Taylor and McCaleb Burnett is another standout as the bumbling yet lovable underdog, Joe Donovan. Young Miles is also a delight to watch (Antione Gray Jr. and Jahmeel Mack alternate performances).
Mariann S. Verheyen outfits the cast in time period appropriate costumes and David Remedios provides original music and effective and at times even eerie sound cues.
The stakes are high, but the payoff is worth it. "The Luck of the Irish" is not to be missed.
Huntington Theatre Company presents "The Luck of the Irish" through May 6 at the Calderwood Pavillion at the BCA, 527 Tremont Street, Boston’s South End. For more info go on-line to www.huntingtontheatre.org.