From the outset, Michael Evans, Dancing at Lughnasa’s misty-eyed narrator, captures your attention and doesn’t let go. Evans (Jonathan Scott MacBride) remembers the autumn of 1936 in rural Ireland, when, at the age of 7, he lived in his five unmarried aunts’ household, which teetered on collapse. Similar to a Greek tragedy, the play’s drama and most significant events happen offstage.
So, viewers are pulled into this Tony Award-winning play’s “present” past moments, at times intensely. As Act 1 begins, Pinnacle’s experienced ensemble shines with seven superior roles. Quirky Aunt Maggie (Alexandra Harbold), is instantly likable, which eases the play’s tensions and juxtapositions: love and loneliness, entrepreneurship and big business, Catholicism and paganism, family values and individual autonomy. With abundant strong characters and subject matter, the scenes unfold dramatically, yet with ease, in wild dancing or gut-wrenching monologues.
The household’s head, Aunt Kate (Carrie Morgan), alludes to the house’s eventual collapse and unifies the family, saying, “The whole thing is so fragile, it can’t stay together much longer.” Walking that emotional tightrope of a tragedy—with comedic twists—the cast crescendos as needed and holds back elsewhere, even pulling off decent Irish accents. The production’s only drawbacks, albeit slight, were the set’s lack of authentic feel and odd lighting choices.
As Act 2 concludes, there’s no intense welling of emotion, but the play’s deeper meanings might linger with the audience in subsequent days, weeks or months. It’s an established masterpiece worth seeing again and again.