Although nearly a dozen Broadway and Off-Broadway shows closed Jan. 4, one production set to end but didn't is The Irish...And How They Got That Way, which has once again extended its hit run, now to Jan. 25.
The revue closed at the Rep's home on West 22nd St., Nov. 2 to make room for the company's Major Barbara, which ran Nov. 15-Jan. 4. Irish reopened across the street Nov. 20.
A comic and lyrical reminiscence, Irish was assembled by Frank McCourt, whose Angela's Ashes won Pulitzer and National Book Award prizes. Irish Rep Artistic Director Charlotte Moore stages the play, which opened Oct. 2.
The show mixes traditional Irish songs like "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra" and "Danny Boy" with an account of Irish history and the Irish immigrants' experience in America, drawing on quotes from Irish writers and historical documents. Author McCourt was born in Brooklyn but spent his childhood in Limerick, which he termed, "a real city in an imaginary country."
Starring in the show are Ciaran O'Reilly (the company's co-founder), Ciaran Sheehan, Donna Kane (Meet Me In St. Louis) and Rosemary Fine. Designing Irish are David Toser (costumes) and Shawn Lewis (sets).
Next up at the Irish Rep mainstage will be Song At Sunset. Niall Buggy stars in this one-man tribute to Sean O'Casey, written by the playwright's daugter, Shivaun O'Casey. The show premiered at the Glasgow Theatre Festival and went on to Belfast's Lyric Theatre and London's Hampstead Theatres.
O'Casey the younger used tape recordings, unpublished articles and letters, songs and plays to weave this biographical tapestry of her dad, whose own plays include Juno And The Paycock, Shadow Of A Gunman and The Plough And The Stars. Ms. O'Casey has directed frequently for the Dublin theatre company named after her illustrious father.
Said Shivaun of her dad's tape recordings, "He was then clinically blind, and these recordings were a way of stopping him straining his eyes to read - willing himself to see the print. I wanted to include as much colloquial speech as I could."
An Abbey Theatre veteran, Buggy received a Drama Desk nomination for his work in Brian Friel's Aristocrats at Manhattan Theatre Club.
Founded in 1988 by Moore and Ciaran O'Reilly, Irish Repertory Theatre took a big leap three years ago when they moved into their charming, jewel-box home on West 22nd St. Among their most notable productions have been a Harold Prince-directed Grandchild Of Kings, the Walton-directed Importance Of Being Earnest, and Brian Murray starring in Da.
The play was read at Broadway's Golden Theatre in May 1997 as a fundraiser for Irish Rep, featuring Peter Gallagher, Eric Stoltz, folksinger Tommy Makem.
For information on the Irish Repertory Theatre season call (212) 727- 2737.
-- By David Lefkowitz