to Patrick Fitzgerald's Page
Shaughraun aka The Show Must Go On (long)
It was probably a good thing that I arrived for the play drunk on several pints of Guiness. I'm sure my temporary lack of muscle tone saved my boyfriend's kneecap from being pried loose when at about 8:15 the Artistic Director of the Irish Rep, Charlotte Moore, took the stage to make her announcement about Pat's mishap during the matinee. When she said "our Shaughraun, Patrick Fitzgerald, had an accident..." I seized John's knee in a panic and held my breath. Ms. Moore explained about PF's hand, gave us *his* assurance he was ok, and let us know he would perform, but would be in a cast. He must have taken that old theater admonition to break a limb just a bit too seriously. <g>
He really did hold up well, too. The Irish Rep is a *tiny* theater, with a stage the size of my front stoop. The whole cast was required alternately to climb the set and to negotiate hinged sections in the wooden backdrop, leap off stage and exit by running down the main aisle into the lobby, and occasionally to cart bits of scenery about. Pat's character of Conn The Shaughraun also had to handle a lot of props (including a dog in a few scenes). He came through it like a trooper. I only saw him visibly tire and grimace in pain at the very end of the show. Hopefully the adrenaline rush of first the performance and then the wild applause sucked up all of the pain receptor space in his brain. Poor baby.
Now, you may ask, how is Clar famous? Nope, not by the speaking of her name. He did that last year when Kady and I met him. <g> In Patrick's credits section in the Playbill reads the following:
It is the URL for his page under Cast & Crew. Nice to see that someone realizes how much exposure his brief stint on the series gave him. And curse the fate that teases us with his return to our small screens and then wounds the darlin' boy the day before he leaves for shooting. ::heavy sigh::
The Irish Rep is an adorable little theater. It has 13 main rows of ten seats each at stage front, and an additional 4 rows of eight seats each on the stage right side. We had tix in the third row on the side. I was physically as close to PF's performance as I would be to the tv set in my living room. It was a superb way to watch him work. Our view was only obscured when cast members occasionally stood in front of us during the ensemble scenes. The actors exited to backstage about five feet to my left.
The play itself was a joy. It was written in the late 19th century by Irish author Dionysus Boucicault (yes, that's really his name), and is a combination Irish farce, fish-out-of-water comedy and gentle, nationalistic morality play. The action centers around the ancestral home of the Ffolliott family. The Ffolliott children, Robert and Claire, are orphans who were left in the dual care of kindly Father Dolan and evil landlord Mr. Kinchela. Kinchela contrived to see Robert convicted of Fenian (Rebel) activities and transported to penal servitude in Australia before he became of legal age to inherit his estate. Robert left his sister and his fiancee, Arte, living at the manor, but he signed away all of his rights to the lands for the duration of his time in Australia to Kinchela. If he hadn't, they'd have been confiscated by the Crown. Kinchela has driven the estate into financial ruin, has foreclosed on it, intends to buy cheaply and outright the lands at auction, turn Claire out of her home, and marry Arte himself.
What Kinchela doesn't know is that Conn the Shaughraun (gaelic for vagabond -- in this case, wild rover), who is Robert's dearest childhood friend, has affected (almost by accident) Robert's escape from Australia. Robert has just been secretly landed on the beach outside the village when the play opens.
Conn, whose life is dedicated to drinking whiskey, poaching game (mostly to help feed Claire and Arte who have no rights to hunt or fish on their own estate), telling outrageous but good-natured lies, playing the fiddle, and pitching woo to all the local lasses, is something of a human Brear Rabbit. He is a pure force of nature, loaded with infectious charm, living by his wits in the countryside. He has no book learning (though his equally inebriated mother paid good money to send him to school), but he knows every pebble and blade of grass in his home district, poaches at will from the magistrate (also Kinchela), is a dedicated Fenian, and is romancing Father Dolan's niece under the good padre's nose and over his loud, but ultimately empty, objections.
Conn spirits Robert in to see his family only to discover that the local British Regiment has been alerted to Robert's escape and probable arrival back in Sligo. The slightly dotty but well-meaning Captain of the regiment, Molineux, has been patrolling the area in search of Robert. He is as confused by the strange country as he is by the Irish people, and finds himself falling madly in love with Robert's sister Claire upon their first meeting. She, much to her Fenian chagrin, returns his affections. Claire exacts a promise from Molineux that he find some way to help Robert, who has been recaptured. He agrees to do all he can within the bounds of his duty.
What none of the participants knows is that the Fenian prisoners have all been pardoned by the Queen, including the escaped Robert, providing he gives himself up. Kinchela realizes that once freed, Robert will be able to regain his rights to the estates, and Kinchela will be left bankrupt. He tells no one that Robert is technically pardoned and helps Robert escape Molineux's soldiers, all the while laying an ambush for Robert. If Robert is armed, the constabulary (controlled by Kinchela) can shoot him for escaping. Poor Robert has no idea what Kinchela has been up to in his absence and gladly accepts the man's "help".
Conn however has already contrived to free his friend yet again. With the help of Claire, who is distracting the smitten Captain Molineux, Arte, his own sweetheart Moya, and his faithful dog Tatters, Conn foils the ambush and Robert makes it back to his ship. The Shaughraun is shot by Kinchela's ruffians, who mistake him for Robert, and Kinchela kidnaps Arte and Moya.
Conn isn't dead. He isn't even really shot. He's just passed out. When he rouses himself, after he's been laid out for his wake by his hysterical mother, he informs Father Dolan and the Captain of Kinchela's latest treachery. They vow to hunt down Kinchela. Then, in the funniest scene of the play, Conn continues to feign death, attends his own wake (paid for by the tender-hearted Captain), and editorializes to the audience about the quality of the mourning. He gives up the charade when the Captain and the Priest arrive to enlist his help in the search for the fleeing Kinchela.
All parties now know that the evil landlord planned Robert's death. Conn and the Captain capture two of Kinchela's smuggler cronies and discover that Kinchela is trying to sail from the cove with Arte and Moya as prisoners. Conn's bewildered but fractious family forms a posse (along with half of the village) and helps hunt down Kinchela's band. Conn shoots, but doesn't kill, the villain. Captain Molineux arrests him and discovers a letter in Kinchela's pocket about the pardon of the Fenians.
Robert is reunited with his dearest Arte. Claire accepts the Captain's marriage proposal. All that remains is to see Conn and Moya together. Father Dolan only gives his permission to the union when Moya vows to help reform the Shaughraun's wild ways -- and Conn enlists the audience to convince the reluctant priest of his worth. There is triple wedding, with Conn's wake feast serving as the wedding banquet.
Patrick was marvelous. He was a mischievous elf, let loose upon an unsuspecting and awed crowd. Every moment he was onstage people were just riveted on him. Whether that owes to his talent and natural charisma or to a morbid curiosity about how long he would last with a broken arm, I don't know. I'd vote for the former, but I'm biased. <eg> He did give a standout effort, as did Daniel Gerroll as Molineux, and Terry Donnelly as Conn's mother Mrs. O'Kelly. This production was a delight, start to finish. I'm sorry it's closing. I'd gladly see it again.
Though I had no idea until I was practically sitting in their laps that stage actors spit all over each other so much when delivering their lines <vbeg>.