Playwright Conor McPherson’s work has been all over Portland in the last few years, and for good reason. He has been hailed as “quite possibly the best playwright of his generation,” by Ben Brantley of The New York Times, which is a title he very much deserves.
Playwright Conor McPherson’s work has been all over Portland in the last few years, and for good reason. He has been hailed as “quite possibly the best playwright of his generation,” by Ben Brantley of The New York Times, which is a title he very much deserves. Currently, his show This Lime Tree Bower is being produced at the CoHo Theater, directed by Devon Allen.
The play consists of interlacing monologues from three men who couldn’t be more different. Joe, the youngest of the three, is a socially inept teenager with a strange fascination with a male classmate that borders on attraction.
Joe’s brother Frank is a grounded individual whose main worries are running the family restaurant and paying off their father’s massive and growing gambling debts. The last of the three is Ray, who is dating Frank and Joe’s sister. He is a clever and self-centered philosophy professor who seems to have the same concerns as the average frat boy.
Together, these characters create a strange dichotomy that makes the audience wonder how three people so different could be so closely related—unless, of course, they have the same experience with their own relatives, and in that case it’s a wonder that McPherson can write these three characters together so well without making the show seem awkward.
Lime Tree is one of those plays that can oh-so-easily break down the wall between the play and its spectators, leaving the characters speaking exclusively to the audience in a highly intimate fashion. The stage is set simply, with scraggly trees in the background whose branches weave delicate shadows and wooden chairs for each of the men. These chairs don’t move, and this makes it easier to see the connections between them when one holds the floor.
There is very little action in the show, which at first glance may seem like just the type of show one would nod off during, but the exact opposite occurs. The monologues are so well written and the actors so well cast that the words and stories seem to have some kind of magic woven in to keep the audience rapt with attention.
Matthew Micucci as Joe plays a great part that is very much understated at the beginning of the show. Between the average everyman Frank and the promiscuous playboy Ray, Joe gets a little lost.
As the show progresses and Ray’s expected wit that comes with his rambunctious, faithless attitude gets a little tiresome, Micucci polishes Joe’s awkwardness and makes his big heart shine. His is a character that never gets old and is very true to life—he is a bumbling young man with a heart of gold.
Matt Dibasio as Frank and Dennis Kelly as Ray are two great choices as well, and really connect with their characters. No matter how much one may at first despise either for their polar opposite life choices, they end up endearing themselves to the audience in the end, the first through hard work and relatable stories and the other through humor and, strangely, his egotism.
CoHo Theater has done a marvelous job with this production. Anyone who has seen Conor McPherson’s other plays will appreciate both the familiar style and the new take on the story. Everyone else will marvel at how well the show was put together.