A horse is a horse, of course, of course; unless, of course, the magical horse is -- Tir Na n'Og.
From Irish legend comes the tale of a white horse that changes the lives and emotions of a poor Dublin family. England's Travelling Light Theatre Company has travelled to New York with the tale, bringing Tir Na n'Og to Off-Broadway's family-oriented New Victory Theatre. Performances began Feb. 4 for a run through Feb. 13 for the piece, which features music composed by Thomas Johnson and played by live by Johnson and Fiona Barrow.
Greg Banks adapted and direction this version of the mythical tale, taken from Jim Sheridan's 1993 film, "Into the West." "Sometimes a story leaps out at you," said Banks in a statement, "begging to be told again and again. It captures your mind and heart. This is one of those stories."
Founded in 1984, the Travelling Light Theatre Company creates shows especially for young audiences and generally tours European and North American venues. Tir Na n'Og, the company's 20th show, played at the Dublin International Theatre Festival in 1999.
For tickets ($10-$25) and information on Tir Na n'Og at the New Victory Theatre, 209 West 42nd St., call (212) 239-6200. Upcoming shows at the New Victory include:
• Feb. 18-27: Get ready for The Flaming Idiots. No, not the Presidential candidates, we're talking about three guys -- "Gyro, Pyro and Walter" -- from Austin, TX, who juggle swords, fire, bean bag chairs, three-foot balloons and bullwhips.
• March 3-12: From Glasgow comes the Visible Fictions Theatre Company and their adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film, "The Red Balloon." It's about a lonely little boy who plays hide and seek with his red balloon -- until bullies try to steal it from him.
• March 17-26: the Chicago-based Trinity Irish Dance Company.
• March 31-April 9: It's time for Frogs, Lizards, Orbs and Slinkys. Courtesy of Portland, OR's Imago Theatre troupe, this Mummenschanz-ish entertainment features its performers as "dancing worms, scampering monkeys and devilishly destructive orbs that wreak havoc in the audience."
• April 14-30: Also from Portland comes Extremely Physical Theatre in Do Jump!, mixing athletics, acrobatics and comedy.
• May 5-21: From Rotterdam, 28 life-sized puppets are featured in this look at a dog's life in St. Tropez. The Ro Theatre performers are costumed as the human counterparts of the canine puppets they manipulate.
The New Victory was the first theatre to reopen its doors under the multi-million dollar rehabilitation of 42nd Street, which also includes the renovation and 1997 reopening of Ziegfeld's old New Amsterdam Theatre (just across the street from the New Victory) as the throne of Disney's new theatre empire.
In other New Victory news, forget about wondering if the groundhog predicts winter or spring; wonder about surviving "Stagefright" instead! The company debuted their new website, http://www.newvictory.org, Feb. 2, introducing the net not only to their space and schedule, but video games, surveys, horoscopes and links.
Among the practical information available on newvictory.org are show descriptions, schedules, show articles and reviews, special events listings, RealAudio and Video clips, online ticketing and a 3-D virtual tour of the New Victory Theatre.
Less utilitarian, but perhaps more fun are polls, monthly questionaires, ghost stories and Haiku Horoscopes. And then there's "Stagefright." Created especially for the New Victory by Digitalthread Design and Polemic Productions, "Stagefright" is a web-based action adventure game where free-falling objects try desperately to end a player's stage career. Armed only with a bag of rotten tomatoes and quick reflexes, players can peg sandbags and the like before they stop the actor.
The New Victory serves as the 42nd Street host house for national and international productions, mostly geared towards New York City youth. The 1999-2000 season has already featured the Philadelphia Dance Company, Shockheaded Peter, Tomas Kubinek, Suzanne Farrell and the masters of 20th Century Ballet.
-- By David Lefkowitz & Christine Ehren