When Irish rogues are smilin’
A Couple of Blaguards
Make no mistake, award-winning author Frank McCourt wants you to go see his show, A Couple of Blaguards, when it comes to Carson City’s Brewery Arts Center this week. He just hopes you won’t take it too seriously.
“It’s an entertainment,” says McCourt of the off-Broadway touring comedy he co-wrote with his brother, Malachy. “It should be taken lightly. It has sad moments—songs and stories [about] my brother Malachy and myself, growing up in Ireland and coming to America. It’s fairly light; it won’t tax the intellect of anybody. It might cause a few tears. I wouldn’t call it a play—it’s this side of a vaudeville act.”
That means this show will offer a much more cheerful perspective on McCourt’s childhood in Ireland than the one recounted in his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Angela’s Ashes. Indeed, says McCourt, Blaguards contains almost none of the material from the book that first made him famous.
“I didn’t want to overlap with Angela’s Ashes and ’Tis. There’s one scene about my first communion, but that’s it,” McCourt explains. “I want fresh material. You don’t need fiction when you have experiences like that. Other writers have to make things up if they’re writing a novel, but it should be clear [that this is a memoir]. I’m not going to say I was in jail for 87 days when I wasn’t.”
Still, McCourt adds, you don’t need to have endured an Irish Catholic upbringing to appreciate this show.
“I think people will recognize things about their own families,” he says. “Growing up in one country and the collision with another culture, which is America.” The play, he hopes, addresses universal themes everyone can relate to.
“It isn’t just the immigrant population,” McCourt says. “I think people in general are interested in the family situation: religion, poverty, and maybe not too much alcohol.”
The brothers played themselves in the original production. But the roles of Frank and Malachy McCourt will be performed at this show by Broadway actors Jarlath Conroy and Howard Platt, respectively.
"[Malachy] is supposed to be the actor in the family, and I’m the teacher … that’s his business, and he enjoys it,” says McCourt. “I’d rather teach because when you teach, you’re navigating your own ship. You’re not spoiling someone else’s lines.”
So, what’s it like to see an actor pretending to be you? “I thought it was pretty good. The first time I saw it done, I laughed my head off,” he chuckles. “It was good, because it was fresh. It’s intriguing to see someone else doing you … you say, ‘That’s not right; that’s not me. I’m much more eloquent than that!'”
Blaguards promises to be filled with the same keen wit that made McCourt famous for finding humor and inspiration in a poverty-stricken childhood in the streets of Limerick.
“Don’t look for a deeper meaning—and if you find it, let me know,” McCourt jokes. “People will take away from it whatever they want to take from it. I think the Irish would see it one way, but there must be something universal about it, maybe the humor. The word ‘blaguard’ means a rogue or a scandal, so I hope that’s what they’ll find in it: a roguishness or a cheekiness.”
With a couple of rogues, a lot of brogue, and plenty of laughs, this show will bring a little bit of Ireland to Northern Nevada.