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Memory takes a turn in 'Dancing at Lughnasa'

May 26 2013
Christine Dolen | Miami Herald

Brian Friel's award-winning Dancing at Lughnasa is a delicate memory play, a portrait of an Irish family poor in material things but rich in love. Like a treasured scrapbook photograph come to life, the warm-hearted drama paints a portrait of grown siblings unknowingly approaching the moment when their family would break apart. The final play of the season at Palm Beach Dramaworks, Dancing at Lughnasa is bittersweet, tender and altogether beguiling. ...Beautifully staged by J. Barry Lewis and engagingly acted by its uniformly strong cast, Dancing at Lughnasa is a character study that probes dreams and disappointments, familial loyalty and risk-taking, and the tension between proscribed behavior and a free-spirited approach to life. Though the play is set so many decades ago, Kate's fears about how the family will get by if she loses her job feel all too resonant in these new hard times. The dancing in Lughnasa is choreographed by Lynette Barkley, who makes the movement reflective of each character. Moroney's Maggie is a solid woman, but she's light on her feet and something of a wild instigator. Burgess' Gerry is a kind of con man Fred Astaire, slick as a former ballroom dance teacher would be, passionate as he twirls Chris, the woman he will always love and leave. Lowe's tiny, shy Agnes becomes Ginger Rogers to Gerry's Astaire, moving with the beautiful grace of the leading lady she'll never be. The production elements -- Jeff Modereger's rustic set, Brian O'Keefe's period costumes, Ron Burns' lovely lighting, Steve Shapiro's artful sound design -- are just-right expressions of the world Friel summons. Altogether, Dancing at Lughnasa is a lovely end to a strong season.