Love in the Title

Rated 3.0

This Irish play by Hugh Leonard portrays three generations of women, from grandma down to granddaughter. It’s a concept many have explored, but Leonard adds a time-travel twist. Catherine, the grandmother, speaks from 1932 as a soon-to-wed, barely literate 20-something girl. Triona, Catherine’s daughter, speaks as a married suburban mother who is just past 30 in 1964. Katie (Triona’s child) is nearly 40, a Ph.D. candidate who’s still single, and speaking from 1999. So, the oldest (chronologically) is the youngest figure onstage, and knows the least about what the future holds.

This being an Irish play, there’s lots of talk, from levity to slashing exchanges. The characters also speak volumes about Ireland’s transformations. In 1932, Ireland had been independent for barely 10 years and remained poor, mostly rural and rigidly Catholic. A single woman who bore a child was disgraced; the baby would be raised by nuns. By 1964, things were slowly changing, but divorce remained illegal. But by 1999, Ireland had joined Europe and had experienced a high-tech and economic boom, and if a single woman had a baby—well, so what?

In this production, bubbly Grace Ann Crow (Catherine), icy Joelle Wirth (Triona) and nearly cynical Suzi Milligan (Katie) go round and round. The Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre’s tiny stage is well-suited for uncomfortably close-range conversations as these women size each other up, rattle the family skeletons and settle old scores. It’s not a play overflowing with warm, matriarchal wisdom.

Director Jill McMahon steers her cast through some pretty challenging scenes, most of which turn out respectably well, including a few that are downright gripping. The Irish accents are a bit variable, but we’ll excuse that and thank the Thistle Dew for staging Irish plays more often than any other venue in town.