Set in 1930s Donegal, Ireland, “Dancing at Lughnasa” is Brian Friel”s play about five unmarried sisters and the return of their brother, Father Jack, from Africa. The play, set in the summer at the time of the festival of Lugh, which celebrates the god of light, is told through the eyes of Michael, the son born out of wedlock to the youngest sister, Chris. The lives of the Munday sisters center around Michael. Complicating the picture is the return of his father, Gerry, for a brief stint.
When Kate, the eldest sister, returns from town one afternoon, the discussion turns to the Harvest dance. The sisters decide that they should attend as they did when they were younger. Their characters capture a vivaciousness of spirit despite the rough conditions of their Balleybeg farm. Kate, a school teacher, serves as a grounding point for her sisters, who include the simple minded Rose, Agnes, who is Rose”s companion, Christine, the youngest sister and the light-hearted Maggie.
The process of creating the right atmosphere for the play was aided by the cast learning about Irish culture. Sandra Abrevaya, the play”s director, bought a tape of Irish dialects for the cast to practice with. The cast also learned a few Irish dance steps as part of their work for the play. Each performance of “Dancing at Lughnasa” will also feature local musicians as a backdrop.
Benjamin Klein, as Michael, serves as the play”s narrator and the young son. He said that in portraying his character, he was “torn between story telling for the audience and remembering for myself.” The role of Michael was a challenging one, because of the character”s nature to be a player and an observer in the play. Klein also commented that the play can be likened to a bar story, due to the manner in which it is told.
The return of their brother Jack, a priest who has been to Africa, serves as our entry into the story of the Munday family. Jack”s arrival in Donegal serves as the catylst for the play. His sisters see him as a different man than the man who left Ireland years before.
Bryonie Maros, who plays Maggie, says she is just like her character, who breaks out into songs and jokes. Maros has three scenes with Michael, which were initially practiced without Michael. At first the scenes were challenging when Michael was brought in.
The cast had a liveliness in rehearsals that will boil over into their stage production. Of working on “Dancing at Lughnasa,” Maros said, “I leave in a good mood.”