Walking in to the Stop Gap Studio Theatre, audience members could choose from seats that bordered three sides of stage. This unique setup made it clear from the beginning that this would be a very different production.
The show’s eloquent Irish and English script, historical setting and continuous stream of lightly arranged music made the production feel like an outdoor ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ performance, which made it feel organic and intimate. “Translations” was directed by Tammis Doyle and featured an original score by student Carly Worden. The show starts off with a musical number featuring Linn Chen on Violin, Carly Worden on the Bodhran (Irish Drum) and Chelsea Moe on vocals and the tin whistle. “Translations” takes place at a hedge school in Ballybeg, Ireland in August of 1833. Jimmy Jack (Ryan LeDrew), Sarah (Liz Craswell), Maire (Cassie Shuster), Doalty (Jack Anderson) and Bridget (Maddie Dugan) start off the production in a lengthy classroom scene, where the audience gets a view of troubles in town, required schooling and the failure-to-launch romance between Maire and Manus (Jaeger Snyder). As Hugh (James Webster) arrives to teach his pupils Greek and Latin, British military officials ,Capt. Lancey (Colin O’Brien) and Lt. George Yolland (Bil Kilpatrick), arrive on the scene and demand changes to the entire the map of Ireland. By changing the names of towns and roads to English titles, the newcomers promise to lower taxes and create environmental acuity for all in the Kingdom. As Owen (Andy Brumlow) acts as translator between the two languages, characters despair as they realize that this legislation will erase the rich Irish history that they all yearn to protect.The romantic relationship between Lieutenant George Yolland and Maire was entrancing, as each character’s fascination with each other is accentuated with the obvious language barrier.
My biggest complaint concerns the transitions between different dialogue topics. One second they would be talking about the apparent disappearance of Lieutenant George Yolland, and the next they would randomly transition to remapping Ireland without a satisfying rest between the subjects to give audience members a moment to catch up.
My concerns were washed away however with the final encore of “Phelim’s Little Boat.” It gave audience members the chance to feel attached to the characters where sometimes the dialogue was so circuitous it fell flat. “Translations” may be a difficult show to come to grips with, but you’ll find yourself humming the theme song when the curtains close. I’ll definitely go to the show again, because as with all works of art, it deserves thorough contemplation.