The players: The complicated, colorful, scandalous Mundy clan — five single sisters, a precocious only child, and returning hero brother.
The time: Uncertain — A distantly remembered past? A strange alternative present? One possible future?
The place: Ireland. Most definitely Ireland.
The third production of the Irish Play Series (following stagings of “Trad” and “The Seafarer”), “Dancing at Lughnasa” boasts the biggest cast yet in a new reimagined take on Brian Friel’s award-winning tale of family and fate, set in a land dominated by tradition and faith.
Again directed by Wilson Milam, the show is set, courtesy of WEAVE Presents, for a three-performance run at Rolling Bay Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22, as well as 5 p.m. Sunday, June 23.
That month had already been different, as Michael Mundy recalls. But was all that came to pass inevitable? He wonders, casting his mind’s eye back to his childhood and that remote cottage outside of Ballybeg.
First, the five Mundy sisters, his mother and aunts, acquired a wireless radio and then strange, surprising dance music — when the battery worked, that is — began filling the kitchen.
Jack, the ladies’ eldest brother and revered local hero, recently arrived home after working abroad for 25 years — but everyone can see he’s not quite the same.
Gerry, Michael’s wayward father, has suddenly turned up unannounced on the doorstep, too.
And if all that’s not enough, the entire town is in a fervor over the upcoming harvest festival and dance. Absolutely everybody’s going to be there.
Thus, loyalties are set to be tested, beliefs challenged, secrets blurted out. It seems change is coming to the Mundy household, for better or worse.
Maybe even much worse.
The robust cast boasts both familiar faces and lesser known local thespians, including Michelle Allen, Garrett Bennett, Chloe Bohonos, Ali Budge, Ted Dowling, Helen Heaslip, Patrick Hurlburt and Christen Muir.
Milam, whose more recent directing credits include “The North Plan” for inD Theatre and “Jellyfish Apocalypse” for the Island Theatre Ten Minute Play Festival on Bainbridge, as well as numerous productions in Seattle, said it was access to a stupendous squad of female actors that inspired his choosing “Dancing at Lughnasa” as the next piece for the Irish Play Series.
“We had Michelle and Christen and Helen and Chloe and we were going, ‘Well, what’s a story that uses all of these people? Then we’ll work backwards to the men,’” he said. “We’re kind of putting together an impromptu, loose ensemble — people from ‘The North Plan,’ people from ‘Seafarer.’ Chloe was in ‘Jellyfish Apocalypse’ in the Ten Minute Play Festival two years ago.
“We’ve been very lucky in getting these actors because they’re all good,” he added. “We’d seen Ali in a few shows; we’d just seen her in ‘Under Milk Wood’ … so she was on the radar. Ted, of course, is a stalwart; this is the third show we’ve done together, or the fourth. Patrick I knew from the Ten Minute Play Festival … and Garrett I’ve just known. He’s a film guy and we talk films.”
As for the story, the director said it’s a heartfelt tale set in a harsh locale — all very traditional Irish components, despite this production’s slight revisions.
“This is a dead-end life; life is dark for these five sisters,” he said. “So much of Ireland is so rooted in the past. And we do have [that], there is proper Irish dancing and proper Irish music in this. That’s part of it, too.
“I’ve done three plays in Dublin now, and one in Galway, and the more I sink into it, the more I learn, the more I realize it’s bottomless.”