Beckett situations with Joycean language.
That’s the trademark style of Enda Walsh, writer of the latest production in Bainbridge’s ongoing Irish Play Series, “The New Electric Ballroom,” according to director Wilson Milam.
Characters move through — or more often languish in — a spartan setting a la “Waiting for Godot” while chatting, snapping, arguing, lamenting, and dreaming in incredibly eloquent dialogue worthy of the author of “Finnegans Wake.”
And all of it, of course, is imminently Irish.
Following three sold-out productions, this, the fourth show of the noted series, focuses on the daily lives of three elderly sisters living together in a cramped house in an isolated fishing village on the west coast of Ireland.
There, having isolated themselves almost completely from the outside world, the ladies reenact the pivotal night of their youth at the New Electric Ballroom, where they vied for the attention of Roller Royle, the visiting showband’s seductive lead singer.
Grudges resurface, insults are bandied, and food items fly through the air, and only the visits of a handsome and lonely fishmonger turns things in a new direction — for better or worse.
The Irish showband format, which was popular in Ireland mid-1950s to the ‘80s (though some have survived), was based on the internationally popular six- or seven-piece dance band phenomenon. The typical group’s basic repertoire included standard covers of pop music hits, ranging from rock-and-roll and country-and-western songs to traditional Dixieland jazz.
It was a cultural trend the director said he was previously unaware of, but fascinated by, and which, along with a love of the playwright’s previous works, attracted him to the piece.
“His plays are so word-drunk,” Milam said. “Reviews, they all refer to him as Joycean, and he is.”
The cast features three women from previous entries in the series — Michelle Allen, Christen Muir, and Helen Heaslip — and also Wayne Purves, who was in inD Theatre’s production of “The North Plan,” also directed by Milam.
“We seem to have become an inadvertent ensemble,” the director said. “We never knew there’d be anything beyond the first [play]. We didn’t name it ‘Number One,’ we just said Irish Play Series because I was being glib and flip. We found an audience and we also found a rough ensemble.”
In keeping with previous entries in the series, the cast (who are also the crew) have tweaked the play slightly in terms of presentation so as to bring a unique take to the tale and make the most of the intimate venue space at Rolling Bay Hall.
“We’ve extrapolated it,” Milam said. “We’re finding a slightly darker strain, even though we’re finding a lot more comedy in the behavior.
“It’s a narrative of why this is a normal way to be.”
“The New Electric Ballroom” will run for three shows, Friday, Jan. 10 through Sunday, Jan. 12, starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets, $20 each in advance and $25 at the door, are available via www.brownpapertickets.com (search for Event 4471759 or “Irish Play Series”).
Rolling Bay Hall is located at 10598 Valley Road NE.
In addition to a regular stable of performers, Milam said the series seems to have found an audience.
“They know a number of actors, three of them have been in the last three [shows],” he said. “I think they know it’s going to be an Irish Play Series, it’s going to be a bit perhaps bold. It’s going to be a little bit different. People ask, ‘Does this one have as much swearing?’”
Actually, now that you mention it …
“There is some,” the director laughed, “when the sisters start going for each other.”
Milam said he has at least two more Irish plays in mind, though eventually he’d like into the offerings of other cultures.
“Someday we’ll probably branch out and do something from Brazil,” he said.
However, so far the process behind, and reaction to, the series’ productions has been so positive, Milam said, as to seem charmed.
The luck of the Irish, perhaps?
For whatever reason, “It’s been a lovely experience,” Milam said.