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A Man of No Importance
Music by Stephen Flaherty, Book by Lynn Ahrens
Book by Terrence McNally
Directed by Christina Rios
R-S Theatrics
August 8, 2019

Cast of A Man of No Importance
Photo by Michael Young
R-S Theatrics

Discovering lesser-known shows is a fun experience, especially when they’re performed by a company with a track record for excellent, thoughtful productions. Such a production is now onstage at the Marcelle in Midtown, produced by R-S Theatrics. A Man of No Importance is a show I hadn’t heard of before I saw the announcements for this production, so I looked it up and saw it had a great team of writers (the same team who created Ragtime), as well as an excellent cast and R-S Theatrics’ strong reputation for thought-provoking theatrical excellence. Upon seeing the show, I’m even more glad for companies like this, since it’s a witty, charming and poignant show that deserves a wider audience.

This is a show that’s full of character, and characters. Set in Dublin, Ireland in the 1960s, it’s based on a somewhat obscure 1994 film of the same name. It’s also, for the most part, a highly affectionate look at the world of amateur theatre. The central figure is Alfie Byrne (Mark Kelley), a bus conductor who is unmarried and lives with his sister, Lily (Stephanie Merritt). Lily wants to marry the traditionalist Mr. Carney (Michael B. Musgrave-Perkins), but has waited for Alfie to marry first, although Alfie is essentially “married” to his theatre company, St. Imelda’s Players, and he spends his time reading Oscar Wilde and imagining new productions he can stage. When Alfie meets newcomer Adele (Lindy Elliott), he is captivated, but not in the way Lily wishes he would be. Instead, he sees in Adele the ideal star for his dream production of Oscar Wilde’s biblical drama Salome, and he encourages her to participate even though she has no theatrical experience. He also harbors a secret affection for his good-looking young bus driver, Robbie (Kellen Green), who he also tries to recruit to be in the play. The usual regulars of his productions are there, as well, including kindly widowed stage manager Baldy (Kent Coffel) and eager participants Mrs. Curtin (Nancy Nigh), Mrs. Grace (Jodi Stockton), and Miss Crow (Kay Love), Rasher Flynn (Marshall Jennings), and Ernie Lally (Dustin Allison). The problems come when Mr. Carney, who has also been cast in the play, starts to have issues with its content, and he takes up his concerns with the local Catholic organization and Father Kenny (also Allison), the priest at the church where the theatre group performs. Through the course of the events, Alfie is also forced to come to terms with some important truths about himself. The show starts out as a flashback and a sort of play-within-a-play, telling Alfie’s story and that of his troubled production. The characters are especially well-drawn and specific, and the story is thoroughly engaging, with elements of fantasy blended in with slice-of-life comedy drama, with an intelligent book by Terrence McNally and an engaging score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens that includes influences of Irish music.

With such strongly defined characters, a great cast is essential for a show like this, and this production has that. Led by Kelley’s truly charming, thoughtful, well-sung performance as Alfie, this is a production full of impressive performances, including Merritt as the stubborn but loving Lily; Green, who is in great voice as Robbie; and Elliot who is sympathetic as the initially shy, somewhat mysterious Adele. Musgrave-Perkins is also a strong presence as both the self-absorbed, strait-laced Mr. Carney and as the ghost of Oscar Wilde, who appears as an encouraging figment of Alfie’s imagination. All the players are excellent, with Nigh, Stockton, and Love giving strong comic performances, and Allison excellent in a dual role as a well-meaning but doubtful priest and as a theatre company member who presents a directorial challenge for Alfie. There are also fine performances from Coffel as the dependable Baldy and Jennings as Rasher and also as Breton Beret, an enigmatic figure who Alfie meets in a pub. Jennifer Theby-Quinn, in a relatively small role as church member Mrs. Patrick, gets some terrific solo vocal opportunities, as well. It’s a superb cast all around, bringing energy and style and a believable Irish flair to the story.

The technical aspects of this show are also strong, with a believable lived-in look to the set (designer not listed), as well as colorful costumes by Amanda Brasher. Nathan Schroeder’s lighting and Heather Tucker’s props also add to the overall atmosphere especially well. There’s also an excellent band led by music director Curtis Moeller, who also plays a few smaller roles in the show, along with a few other band members. The music sounds great, although at times they can overpower the singers.

A Man of No Importance is a show you may not have heard of, but if you don’t know it, you should! It’s a well-constructed story with some important themes of community, self-expression, family relationships, and more, as well as an overarching tone of sheer love for the theatre. At R-S Theatrics, director Christina Rios and company have staged another memorable, thoughtful success. It’s Rios’s last production as director for this company, and she’s going out on an especially high note. Go see this if you can.

Cast of A Man of No Importance
Photo by Michael Young
R-S Theatrics

R-S Theatrics is presenting A Man of No Importance at the Marcelle Theatre until August 25, 2019

 

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