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Theater review: 'The Hostage' at the Banshee

July 15, 2009 |  7:31 pm

Banshee It’s easy to see why Brendan Behan’s “The Hostage” is so seldom produced.  A wild Jackson Pollock of a play, it splashes over the proscenium. Those interpreters who don’t properly frame its anarchic spirit are likely to produce a dismal mess

In her staging at Theatre Banshee, McKerrin Kelly strikes just the right note of controlled disorderliness – a tone so spontaneous, we feel that we are truly part of the play – and considering how often the characters broach the fourth wall, that’s wholly appropriate.  Yet there’s a martial rigor to the proceedings that belies the general sprawl.

The action is set in the late 1950s in a seedy Dublin lodging house populated by reprobates and whores of both sexes, who break into song or dance at the drop of a well-worn shillelagh.  Pub manager Pat (infectiously cheery John McKenna ) saw action during the Troubles with his captain, Monsewer (ever-excellent Barry Lynch ), the establishment’s senile owner, who imagines he’s still in the thick of the action.  On this particular evening, he is.  The IRA has chosen the premises to stash a young British soldier (Patrick Joseph Rieger ). If the Brits execute an IRA soldier tomorrow as planned, the British hostage will be shot in reprisal.

Music director Dan Conroy, who appears in the show, keeps a firm rein on the frequent musical interludes, which vary from heightened music hall turns to realistic pub performances.  Among the tightly knit cast,  Rieger stands out as a cheeky but terrified youth turned bargaining chip in an age-old struggle, and the suitably named Kacey Camp is hilarious as a religious zealot with erotomaniacal appetites.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“The Hostage,” Theatre Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Aug. 16.  $20.  (818) 846-5323.  Running time:  2 hours, 45 minutes.

Photo: John McKenna and Barry Lynch. Credit: Ralph Nelson/Theatre Banshee