A Terrible Beauty is Born: An Evening of New Irish Literature | Lit Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

A Terrible Beauty is Born: An Evening of New Irish Literature 

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Back in 1983 two middle-aged brothers named Frank and Malachy McCourt hit Chicago with A Couple of Blaguards, their boozy barroom revue of stories and songs about growing up in--and escaping from--the rainy Irish coastal city of Limerick. A surprise hit at the now-defunct CrossCurrents cabaret, Blaguards stretched a two-week booking into an eight-month run, then made a comeback a few years later at the Briar Street Theatre. Its success stemmed from the McCourts' ironic, self-deprecating charm and the delicious detail lavished on their sad-hilarious tales. Last year one of the blaguards was reborn as a literary lion: Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt's debut as a published author, won critical acclaim and best-seller status. Refining the colloquial comedy in Blaguards, McCourt's memoir recounts an impoverished childhood as the son of a "pious defeated mother" (the Angela of the title) and a "shiftless loquacious alcoholic father," taught but never tamed by "pompous priests [and] bullying schoolmasters." The book reads the way I remember McCourt talking, in the droll dry deadpan of a keen-eyed, quizzical fellow who spent his youth observing and absorbing other people's eccentricities so that someday he could share them with paying strangers. Returning to Chicago under the auspices of the Stories on Stage series, McCourt will read selections from his book; the program also features two fine local actors, Brad Armacost and Belinda Bremner, performing stories by William Trevor and Mary Morrissy. Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport, 773-325-1700. January 19 and 20: Sunday-Monday, 7:30 PM. $32; $50 for the performance and a preshow reception on Sunday.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Frank McCourt photo by Jerry Bauer.


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