by Roddy Doyle
August 31 – October 7, 2007
The Storefront Theatre
Gallery 37 Center for the Arts
66 E. Randolph Street
In the world of the Pub Quiz, where men are men and the questions sting like crazy, George knows the capital city of every country in the world. Bertie can sniff out a trick question from a hundred paces. On the first Monday of every month, these two giants of the Quiz lock eyes across the five feet of drink-dampened carpet that divides them. But tonight, will George be able to rally his team and bring the unbeatable Bertie to his knees?
It’s not just a game, it’s… WAR.
Roddy Doyle achieved widespread recognition when his novel The Commitments (1987) was made into a motion picture in 1991. Doyle’s novelPaddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha won the Booker Prize, Britain’s highest literary award in 1993. This novel established Doyle as a leading comic writer, earning comparisons to Irish humorists such as Sean O’Casey and Brendan Behan. Other works include The Van, The Snapper, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, and Paula Spencer.
From the Chicago Sun Times
By HEDY WEISS
September 4, 2007
Winning author Doyle, strong cast make ‘War’ a lovely must-see
Put the title “War” on a play that debuted in Ireland in 1989 and you might immediately think: “Oh, a tale of ‘the troubles.’ ” But you would be wrong. That’s because Roddy Doyle, the author of “War” — now receiving a rip-roaring production by Seanachai Theatre Company — is a mischievous fellow.
Doyle — whose novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, won the 1993 Booker Prize, and whose Barrytown Trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van) was the source of three popular films — has always been more interested in the more workaday aspects of life. So the battlefield for his play is a large, crowded Dublin pub where increasingly sloshed participants engage in a 10-round game that is somewhere between Trivial Pursuit and “Jeopardy.” The battles being fought involve the use of wit, willpower and cramming.
Though a near-farcical comedy on some level, “War” also is shot through with several back story scenes that explode with shocking intensity. The minefield is a working-class marriage (Michael Grant and Sarah Wellington are ideal) in which the wife is clearly more educated than the husband, and in which money problems and a slew of kids (with another well on the way) test what is, at its core, an abiding passion.
Ensemble playing is the key to “War.” And Karen Kessler, a veteran Chicago director who deserves a far higher profile, has orchestrated the group dynamics of her hugely engaging cast of 16 to perfection. Each character is a type, but each actor has steered clear of stereotype. And they join to make the second act’s fast-forward sequences a balletic circus.
With Robert Kauzlaric as the ideally geeky quizmaster, Larry Horgen as the calming bartender and Kathy Logelin as the much-abused waitress, the game players gather at their separate tables and vie to answer questions about everything from pop music to geography. Helen Sadler (keep an eye on her), Anne Sunseri and Tori Ulrich circle around the cute, feckless little Dermot (Nicholas Cimino). A veteran smart-guy (John Dunleavy), a moronic wild man (Jeff Christian), a sad mama’s boy (Kelly Cooper) and a lonely divorcee (Barbara Figgins) hold down another table, and Grant, Frank Nall, Bobby Richards and Steve Walker act out at the third.
Cheers to all.
From the Chicago Tribune
By CHRIS JONES
September 6, 2007
Pub quiz gives ‘War’ its heat
If (like me) you like a beer, I would suggest heading to the bar before you see Seanachai Theatre Company’s “War” at the Storefront Theater downtown. Otherwise, all those cold pints of Guinness and ale on the stage – not to mention the preponderance of deliciously salty snacks – are likely to get you licking your lips.
And for a play set in an Irish pub, that’s a high compliment.
Roddy Doyle, the populist Irish writer best known for “The Commitments,” intended his title sardonically when he wrote this 1989 play. The only troubles here erupt between the different teams partaking of that Anglo-Irish – but eminently exportable – tradition known as the pub quiz. Therein, competing teams of boozers obsess over seemingly inane bits of trivia, dispensed by an authoritarian quizmaster.
Like a lot of comedies of this type – “Spelling Bee,” for example – the central joke revolves around the absurd level of competitive anguish spent on such a seemingly pointless pastime. But these are the ways, of course, in which many of us pass our leisure time. Quizzes, after all, are no less useful than crossword puzzles – and a lot more social. Heck, I used to be quite the pub quiz aficionado myself, and I remember my team being unjustly vanquished at both an Italian restaurant on Grand Avenue and the Irish bar Fado, just to demonstrate the ethnic pliability of the tradition.
Doyle’s play isn’t an undiscovered masterpiece, nor is it the most consistently styled script in the world. But it is a shrewd, amusing, accessible and greatly entertaining picture of the harmlessly obsessed. And Karen Kessler’s strikingly honest production – which employs a cast of 16 Chicago-based actors hailing from both sides of the Atlantic – is a very rich and vibrant affair that deftly captures the play’s spirit, even when that spirit is an awkward mix of the farcical and the socially observant. For anyone in search of a good night out in the Loop, this laugh-filled show might be a decent, affordable alternative to the big musicals.
“War” isn’t just a barroom brawl – it also contains a moving portrait of a marriage, especially as played by Michael Grant (as the quiz-junkie George) and Sarah Wellington (as Brigit, his long-suffering wife). Aside from the colorful direction and the remarkable attention to detail, the show works because the actors embrace their characters’ color without forging caricatures. With quizmaster Robert Kauzlaric acting as if he’s going after Tony Blair at question time, Jeff Christian, Kelly Cooper, John Dunleavy, Helen Sadler and the rest of the head-scratching gang are all especially funny. And although “War” steps amusingly to the edge, it never falls into the abyss of condescension.
It’s good to see Seanachai – a very successful theater company in the 1990s but much less prominent of late – returning to form in such grandly entertaining fashion. Seanachai made its reputation here with thoughtful but exuberant works about Irish people. “War” certainly is a quizzical nod to that noble tradition.