THIS LIME TREE BOWER, Famous Door Theatre Company, at the Theatre Building. The advantage of a play like this one–made up of three monologues delivered by actors mostly just seated onstage–is that it allows the audience to focus on the performers and the language.
Luckily Famous Door’s midwest premiere of this simple yet involving work by Conor McPherson, directed by Karen Kessler, employs three fine actors who excel at revealing the desperate emotional landscape of McPherson’s Irish milieu. The play ostensibly tells the story of a robbery from the perspectives of small-time thief Frank (Patrick New), his younger brother Joe (Brad Johnson), and their sister’s boyfriend, the self-aggrandizing would-be Casanova and philosopher Ray (Kelly Van Kirk). But McPherson’s sometimes overlapping, sometimes tangential stories ultimately build on one another to create a compelling if somewhat bleak portrait of contemporary society–men in particular. Though all three performers are charismatic, Van Kirk is especially engaging as the amoral, callous Ray.
The only downside to This Lime Tree Bower (whose title comes from a poem by Coleridge) is that when McPherson’s monologues turn particularly discursive–as in Ray’s amusing anecdote about trying to show up a world-famous philosophy lecturer–the play only gently piques one’s interest. Nevertheless this is a fine production of a very literate work. –Adam Langer