After 18 long months of waiting, the curtain is finally rising again at Inis Nua Theatre, and their first production promises to take audiences to new heights.
Starting this weekend, Inis’ American premiere of ‘A Holy Show’ by up-and-coming Irish playwright Janet Moran kicks off with opening night set for Friday, Oct. 8. The Irish phrase “a holy show” means to embarrass or make a spectacle of oneself, and this tale based on the true story of a disgraced Australian monk who hijacked a passenger jet using nothing but holy water promises to bring the laughs.
According to the release, ‘A Holy Show’ takes place in 1981 as Aer Lingus flight 164 to London is about to board. We meet passengers like Tina and Joe, who are on their honeymoon, Bun who is off to meet her new granddaughter, Mary who is nervously flying for the first time, and Downey who is on a mission to learn the Third Secret of Fatima at any cost. Once a former monk, Laurence Downey, reveals his plan to take over the plane as leverage to discover the truth to a religious fable, everyone on the flight is taken along for the ride. The pilots, flight attendants, and passengers begin to discover what is happening and each undergoes the unexpected turn from a perfectly normal flight to a moment when they must face their own mortality. Amidst the chaos they pause to consider what matters most in that moment and how they want to live their lives going forward.
For this production, Barrymore Award-nominated director and Inis Nua Founder and Artistic Director Tom Reing will be taking on the reigns of the show, which first premiered in 2018 as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival directed by its writer, Janet Moran. At the time, The Edinburgh Reporter said of its 2019 Fringe run “this is a very funny script that really really entertained the audience who lapped up this original piece of work.” The List also called it a “gloriously comic and unexpectedly thoughtful show….’A Holy Show’ is, among other things, a time capsule of an earlier Ireland, that illuminates the distance between the past and its certainties, and the uncertain present,” comparing it to the real event on the Aer Lingus flight it depicts, they say “it carries you off to places you didn’t think it would go.” The Irish Times lastly said the play “seizes every opportunity for embellishment, from earthy comic turns to absurd religious visitations.”
The show itself piqued the interest of Reing, who is a fan of Moran’s work. “Playwright Janet Moran is a good friend who I met at the Corn Exchange Theatre in Dublin. I could see that company’s influence in the style of A Holy Show.”
As the release states, the production casts the play’s two performers in more than 20 different characters. The range of distinct and sometimes rapidly shifting characters poses a particular challenge. Rachel Brodeur rose to a similar challenge in Inis Nua’s 2019 production of ‘Box Clever’ and Liam Mulshine’s background in Commedia dell’arte and improv is an asset. The production warrants a Movement Director–Dan Higbee–who will also help bring uniqueness to the physical performance of each of the many characters including, of course, the Virgin Mary herself.
The show runs for a total of 15 performances through Sunday, Oct. 24, at 2 p.m. The Takeaway Inis’ post-show “exploration of the play’s themes and relevant events by guest scholars and theatre practitioners” will also be held after the 7 p.m. performances on Wednesdays, Oct. 13 and 20. On Oct. 13, The Takeaway will feature a conversation on clowning and physical comedy with Tara Demmy. On Oct. 20, The Takeaway will explore the unique and exciting challenges of this play with members of its cast and production team.
Tickets are on sale for $15-$30 by calling 215-454-9776 or visiting inisnuatheatre.org/tickets. More information can be found on Facebook and by following @InisNuaTheatre on Twitter and @inisnuatheatre on Instagram.