New York City Theater
Irish Repertory Theater, Manhattan
At times the most important person in a play never appears on stage, but dominates every scene. Thus it is with Edna O'Brien's "Triptych," now at the Irish Rep.
O'Brien winds a tale around a man (a successful playwright) and his three women-his wife, his mistress, his daughter. O'Brien's women go at it with all the weapons in their arsenals. Accusations fly like arrows or land like heavy-handed hammer blows. In depicting these women, with their intricate connections, the towering figure of the man takes shape. Here is the man you love to hate, the ultimate cad-brilliant, seductive, demanding, self-centered.
"Triptych" is not so much a story as a four-character study. There is little forward movement, though events do pile up-vacations, pregnancies, abortions, deflorations, gala parties, stage performances. Nevertheless, the play is repetitive and static, saved only by O'Brien's excellent dialogue and sense of character. In fact, one's interest never flags. In particular, she is on target with the teen-age daughter, getting the girl's voice just right. And her development (or deterioration, if you will) is sketched most believably.
David Jones stages this production with a sure hand, moving his actors smoothly from scene to scene. And Michael McGarty's minimalist stage set works nicely for Jones' series of short, staccato scenes. The actors, too, offer fine work. Carrie Specksgoor is heart-breaking as the daughter. She is fortunate in that hers is the juiciest role of the three. And Margaret Colin gives dimension to her role as the wife. Only Ally Sheedy is rather tight and restrained as the mistress, a role that might easily call for more flambuoyancy.
Along the way, O'Brien makes strong statements about the stresses of marriage, the responsibilities of parenthood, the fragility of professional careers, and the difficulties of a woman's survival in this modern world.
-- Irene Backalenick
Oct. 20, 2004