Conversations with an Irish Rascal | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Conversations with an Irish Rascal 

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Conversations with an irish rascal, Northlight Theatre, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Kathleen Kennedy's musical biography, starring Glen Allen Pruett, is an adequate introduction to the life and works of Brendan Behan. Pruett, with his blustery delivery and convivial manner, makes for a convincing Behan. And Mary Callaghan Lynch as a variety of women in Behan's life has an amiable presence and a pretty singing voice. Able musical accompaniment is provided by banjo-picking, fiddle-playing autoharpist Neil Woodward.

Those who hunger for a deeper understanding of Behan and his work, however, will come away from this 75-minute show famished. Progressing from incident to incident, never focusing for long on any particular detail, Kennedy's work is more pamphlet than biography. At least half of the show seems taken up by the sweetly performed but often irrelevant musical numbers. Vignettes chronicling Behan's failed bouts with alcoholism, his political activism, his relationships with women, and his literary career are occasionally poignant and humorous but too brief to trigger profound reactions. The treatment of Behan's writings often amounts to little more than a selection of titles and paragraph-long plot summaries. Perhaps Kennedy intended to cram a lot of information into a short period of time, but she winds up making Behan's short, colorful life seem rather uneventful and pedestrian.

--Adam Langer

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