CHANCING AT LUNACY: THE COMPLETELY IMPROVISED IRISH COUNTRY PLAY, Free Associates, at the Ivanhoe Theater. Right now Chicago is enjoying–or enduring–some half dozen Irish plays. Here’s an antidote to the gorgeous blarney. The target: Brian Friel, currently represented by Seanachai Theatre’s superb revival of his Translations and by his adaptation of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country at Bailiwick Repertory.

In the Free Associates’ seasonal parody, the butt remains Friel’s self-destructive families. Like Ireland itself, these delusional clans are paralyzed by fate, the past, Catholic guilt, English oppression, psychological denial–and the playwright’s blatant stratagems for failure. Calling what they do “conscious comedy,” the Free Associates dog-paddle through a bog of Gaelic absurdities.

The resulting improv doesn’t always rise above the more stupid audience suggestions. (Opening night was hobbled by food crises and the un-Friel-like title “My Nephew Stinks Like a Goat.”) But the style, accents, metaphorical overkill, and lyrical gush were beyond reproach: this five-member ensemble transformed even the most boneheaded suggestions into crisp overacting, anguishing over a daughter who can tie her own shoes but can’t win a man. Mary McHale was dour doom personified as the beleaguered Donegal matriarch pilloried because she couldn’t make soda bread, and John Gawlik registered a lifetime’s desperation as the son who dreamed of roping a goat. –Lawrence Bommer