Criterion Center Stage Right, (9/08/1994 - 10/22/1994)

First Preview: Aug 17, 1994
Opening Date: Sep 08, 1994
Closing Date: Oct 22, 1994
Total Previews: 25
Total Performances: 52

Category: Play, Revival, Broadway
Setting: 1960's, Ballybeg in County Donegal, Ireland

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by B. S. Moss Enterprises (Charles B. Moss, Jr., Executive Director)

Produced by The Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes: Artistic Director; Gene Feist: Founding Director)

Written by Brian Friel

Directed by Joe Dowling

Scenic Design by John Lee Beatty; Costume Design by Catherine Zuber; Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind; Sound Design by Philip Campanella

Roundabout General Manager: Ellen Richard; Company Manager: Denys Baker

Production Stage Manager: Lori M. Doyle; Production Supervisor: Jay Adler; Technical Supervisor: Larry Morley

Casting: McCorkle/Cole Casting; Roundabout Director of Planning and Development: Julia C. Levy; Roundabout Director of Marketing: David B. Steffen; Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Advertising: Nappi / Eliran Advertising, Ltd.

Opening Night Cast

Pauline FlanaganMadge
Robert Sean LeonardGareth O'Donnell in Private
Milo O'SheaS. B. O'Donnell
Jim TrueGareth O'Donnell in Public
Jarlath ConroyMaster Boyle
Joel James ForsytheNed
Gregory GreneJoe
Miriam Healy-LouieKate Doogan
Leo LeydenCanon Mick O'Byrne
Peter McRobbieSenator Doogan
James MurtaughCon Sweeney
Aideen O'KellyLizzy Sweeney
Timothy ReynoldsTom
Robert StattelBen Burton

Understudies: Sean Dougherty (Gareth O'Donnell in Public, Joe, Tom), Robin Howard (Lizzy Sweeney, Madge), Philip LeStrange (Ben Burton, Con Sweeney, Master Boyle, Senator Doogan), Jay Snyder (Gareth O'Donnell in Private, Ned), Robert Stattel (Canon Mick O'Byrne, S. B. O'Donnell) and Cinnait Walker (Kate Doogan)


New York Daily News: "'Philadelphia' Never Gets Its Irish Up"

If Irish life were simply about leprechauns, jigs and the wearin' o' the green, the playful revival of "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" at the Roundabout might be more satisfying than it is.

But Brian Friel's play about a young Irishman dwelling on his cramped and dismal life the night before he embarks for America reflects a darker side of the Irish character. The Ballybeg Friel describes is a place of futility, dreary rowdiness and self-denial that is pathetic rather than ennobling.

Too little of this bleakness is apparent in the production Joe Dowling has directed. The play seems like a collection of droll vignettes of provincial life rather than a portrait of a young man battling to find out who he is and where he is going.

At the heart of the play is the young man's frustrating relationship with his father. Both are trapped by their inability to be open with one another. This is not uniquely Irish, but their emotional impasse is aggravated by an intensely Irish stubbornness.

As the father, Milo O'Shea conveys the infuriating small-mindedness of a man hopelessly muddled in routine but there is little suggestion of the torments or complexities that have made him embrace a life as predictable as a mechanical clock.

Friel's most inventive device in this 1964 play was having the character of the son, Gar, played by two men, one of whom gives us the surface Gar, the other everything seething underneath. Here the two Gars are so similar it seems a needless duplication of manpower. Jim True, the public Gar, rarely gives us a sense of a brooding figure unable to communicate what anguishes him. He is instead an affable dullardt, who might live a very pleasant life if he remained in Ballybeg.

As his alter ego, Robert Sean Leonard conveys abundant charm but there is too little sense of the pain beneath the sharp wit.

The strongest moments are with minor characters, especially Jarlath Conroy as a drunken schoolmaster Gar imagines might be his "real" father. Aideen O'Kelly is marvelous as the alcoholic aunt who invites him to America. Miriam Healy-Louie is touching as the girl Gar cannot muster the courage to marry. Leo Leyden is droll as a clergyman with an enthusiasm for checkers. Pauline Flanagan seems less assured than usual as the housekeeper who holds Gar's household together.

A trio of rowdies performs with vigor but even they seem, like much of the production, softened, as if not to antagonize the Irish Board of Trade.

New York Daily News

New York Post: "A Friel-spirited 'Philadelphia'"

Irish playwright Brian Friel's aching, plaintive classic, "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" - on its second Broadway coming - has proved again the honesty of its vision.

The play first opened in Dublin in 1964 and hit American shores two years later winning nearly universal accolades. Friel went on to win a Tony for "Dancing at Lughnasa."

Over the years, Ireland and America have changed mightily, but Friel's poignant tale of separation and unspoken love stays true as ever.

Directed by Joe Dowling, who has staged several other of Friel's works, the new production may be slightly less astounding, technically, than its predecessor.

Now, using two actors to play the 25-year-old hero, Gareth O'Donnell - Gareth in "public" and Gareth in "private" - seems not nearly so avant-garde as it did in 1966.

But the two Gars - played by Jim True (the public Gareth) and Robert Sean Leonard (the private Gareth) - still move this rich drama along in alternately great happy leaps and steady heartfelt strides.

"Philadelphia, Here I Come!" is set in the tiny Irish village of Ballybeg, the day before Gar is to fly off to America to live with his aunt and uncle.

His last day is also his last chance to close up old wounds with his father, whom Milo O'Shea portrays in a truly standout performance, with the stern and loving housekeeper who has raised him, played by Pauline Flanagan, with his addled but poetic schoolmaster, played by Jareth Conroy, and with his one-time sweetheart, played by Miriam Healy-Louie.

"Silence is the enemy!" private Gar taunts public Gar.

But sometimes the silence is comforting and familiar.

"Watch her carefully, every movement, every gesture, every little peculiarity: Keep the camera whirring; for this is a film you'll run over and over again," private tells public as he gazes about his stolid world.

In one remarkable scene, the elderly father's stooped and frail body leans over Gar's tattered suitcase, capturing the unspeakable sadness of losing the chance and words to say goodbye.

"We've gotten away in theater from this notion that the writer is at the center of our world..." Dowling said in a recent interview. "Every society needs its storytellers, and those storytellers tell us who we are."

"Philadelphia, Here I Come!" is worth listening to again and again.

New York Post

Variety: "Philadelphia, Here I Come!"

With Brian Friel's new "Molly Sweeney" opening to acclaim in Dublin, the Roundabout Theater Company does Broadway a service by reminding us of the playwright's rich beginnings. Any production of "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" is only as successful as its attempts to convey, as one character puts it, "this loneliness, this groping," that traps Friel's endearing characters. By that or any other standard, the Roundabout production is a fine revival.

As well it should be, directed as it is by longtime Friel collaborator Joe Dowling. The former artistic director of Dublin's Abbey and Gaiety theaters, Dowling steers a crack ensemble through Friel's heartbreaking Gaelic terrain. "Philadelphia" is one more notch in the Roundabout's growing reputation as Broadway's most consistent provider of quality fare. First produced in 1964, "Philadelphia" is an early glimpse into the author's oft-revisited fictional Irish village of Ballybeg. Set in the early 1960s, the play traces the final evening and morning of young Gareth O'Donnell's life in his native land: He's heading for Philadelphia, in part to escape a stifling homelife with his cold, seemingly unloving father, S.B. O'Donnell (Milo O'Shea).

But leaving doesn't come without pain and trepidation. The 25-year-old Gareth must say goodbye, probably forever, to Madge (Pauline Flanagan), the beloved housekeeper who helped raise him, and Kate (Miriam Healy-Louie), the girl he loved and lost.

It doesn't help that he's moving to America at the invitation of an aunt (Aideen O'Kelly) he hardly knows, having seen her only once, and at her drunken worst.

But the tie that binds the tightest is the boy's unfinished business with his emotionally stingy father, an old man with "dead eyes and a flat face."

If the man would only break through the household's numbing predictability by saying something honest and caring, Gar just might be persuaded to stay. In the end he leaves, "but perhaps with doubts."

Actually, Gar is nothing if not filled with doubts and conflict. And here is where Friel works what can either be theatrical magic or gimmick. Two actors play the character, one the "public" Gar and one the "private." They debate, taunt and console one another, the private Gar giving voice to the proud, wounded boy's true feelings.

At the Roundabout, the device comes close to magic, what with the casting of Jim True as the public Gar and Robert Sean Leonard as the private. Neither of these charming, garrulous performers hits a false note in their emotional pax de deux, nailing the restless ambition of youth, the terror of the unknown and a young man's childlike longing for love.

Equally fine is Flanagan as the loving Madge and O'Shea as the gruff father. O'Kelly all but steals the second act as the drunken, pitiful Aunt Lizzy, turning what verges on stereotype into poignance. Rest of the cast, as various villagers and visitors, rounds out a terrific ensemble.

Played against John Lee Beatty's convincingly rustic country house set, Dowling finds the delicate blend of exuberance and yearning that marks much of Friel's work, even if "Philadelphia" is short on the poetry that would lift later Ballybeg excursions like "Dancing at Lughnasa."

By now, there's a certain obviousness in the relationship between father and son detailed here, and some might even find the goings-on a tad maudlin. But few won't be moved by the two Gars catching their last glimpse of the old housekeeper, or feel the frustration of possible connections missed.


Replacement/Transfer Info

The following people are credited as replacements or additions if they were not credited on opening night.

Criterion Center Stage Right

(9/8/1994 - 10/22/1994)


Jay Snyder
Gareth O'Donnell in Private
Robert Stattel
S. B. O'Donnell

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