Tony Award-winner Anna Manahan, the monstrous and fascinating mother of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, returns to New York theatre Feb. 5 to star in The Machine Theatre Company production of John B. Keane's The Matchmaker, presented by The Irish Repertory Theatre in association with Matthew Gale.
The two-actor play, bursting with a multitude of characters and not related to the Thornton Wilder comedy of the same name, is directed by Michael Scott and co-stars Des Keogh. The limited-run Off-Broadway production opens Feb. 10 after previews and continues to March 31 at the Irish Repertory Theatre.
Set in the 1950s in the rural west of Ireland, where author Keane still makes his home, "the play follows the efforts of Kerry County matchmaker Dicky Mick Dicky O'Connor to make suitable matches for the lonely and lovelorn in the remote farms and small holdings of the Irish countryside," according to the announcement. "Creating more than 20 characters between them, Manahan and Keogh offer virtuoso performances in an evening which blends high comedy with pathos..."
Prior to Off-Broadway, The Machine Theatre Company's production of The Matchmaker played in all the major cities in Ireland, as well as the 2001 Edinburgh Festival.
Manahan shocked New York as the selfish, needy and brutish housebound matron, Mag, in Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane on Broadway. She earned the Best Featured Actress (Play) Tony Award for her work in 1998. She received an Olivier Award nomination for her work in the National Theatre's The Plough and the Stars. Her credits include Bloomsday, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, The Killing of Sister George, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Gingerbread Lady, Lovers (Tony Award nomination), Live Like Pigs (world premiere at Royal Court), Michael Scott's Red Riding Hood, A Skull in Connemara, The Loves of Cass Maguire, I Do Not Like Thee Dr. Fell, The Crucible, An Old Lady's Guide to Survival, Happy Birthday Dear Alice, The Guernica Hotel (world premiere), A Miracle in Ballymore, The Shaughraun and more. Keogh played Fluther in the Irish Rep's 1997 production of The Plough and the Stars. He spent most of 2001 starring in The Matchmaker throughout Ireland and at the Edinburgh Festival, where he was nominated for the Best Actor Award. In 2000, he co-starred with Rosaleen Linehan in Des and Rosie Ride Again and they both received the Lord Mayor's Award for their contribution to the cultural life of the City of Dublin. He has played every major Irish theatre in his career, most recently the Abbey Theatre, in Kevin's Bed by Bernard Farrell, The Colleen Bawn by Boucicault (also at London's Royal Court). At Dublin's Gate Theatre he appeared in Shaw's Arms and the Man. Other highlights at the Gate: The Dresser by Ronald Harwood, Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas and The Master's Voice (a one-man Noel Coward show). He has appeared at regional theatres throughout the United States.
Playwright Keane is best known in the United States for the movie of his play, The Field, which was adapted for the screen by Jim Sheridan. His first play, Sive, won the All-Ireland Drama Festival in 1959 and its impact made Keane's reputation. His plays include Big Maggie, Sharon's Grave, Many Young Men of Twenty, The Man From Clare, Hut 42, The Year of the Hiker, Moll, The Crazy Wall, The Buds of Ballybunion and The Chastitute. He is also a journalist, essayist and humorist, and he has penned a series of "epistolary novellas," including "Letters of an Irish Priest," "Letters of a Love Hungry Farmer," "Letters of a Country Postman," "Letters of a Matchmaker" and "Letters of an Irish Minister of State." He has honorary doctorates from Dublin University and Marymount Manhattan College New York.
Director-composer Scott received his theatre training in Europe and has been theatre director of the Project Arts Centre, program director of the Dublin Theatre Festival and director of the Tivoli Theatre, Dublin. He is currently artistic director of the SFX City Theatre. His productions have been seen in Ireland, England, Germany, USA, Iceland, Wales, Scotland and France.
Associate producer Gale makes his New York producing debut with The Matchmaker. He has worked on more than 40 West End productions.
Designers are Michael McCaffery (scenic), Synan O'Mahony (costumes), with original music by Michael Scott. Charlotte Moore is artistic director of Irish Rep, Ciarán O'Reilly is producing director.
Performances are 8 PM Tuesday-Saturday, 2 PM Wednesday and 3 PM Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $35-$40 and are now on sale at The Irish Repertory Theatre box office, 132 W. 22nd St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues. For information, call (212) 727-2737.
Ireland's The Machine Theatre Company was established in 1984, according to production notes, "Their works have ranged from proscenium productions to community events, from the well-made play to the devised project, from solo performance events to multi-media celebrations involving entire cities. Productions have been seen in Europe and the USA and the Machine is committed to presenting work in Ireland on both sides of the border. The company has pioneered the work of new writers and composers, producing groundbreaking drama and national premieres of major foreign works. Much of The Machine's work is based on unusual and imaginative couplings between various disciplines and its broad-ranging canon has embraced performance art, sculpture, painting, dance, opera and music theatre. The Machine has also worked in tandem with commercial management of major Dublin venues to produce popular theatre, plays and musicals. The company has enjoyed particular praise for its treatment of modern Irish classics including Brendan Behan's The Hostage, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the Yeats's Cuchulain Cycle, which was hailed as the best production of the play in 40 years."
— By Kenneth Jones