“It takes a clever man to play the fool, Robber,” says 90 year-old Hugh Pugh (Peter Maloney) from the relative comfort of his bathtub to Rob (Rufus Collins), the man who wants to buy his land.
Isn’t that the truth? It also takes an outstanding actor to make Hugh come alive from a stationary position for 80 minutes every night, and that is exactly what Maloney does in The Irish Repertory Theatre’s terrific production of John McManus’s “The Quare Land,” now playing at the DR2 Theatre in Union Square.
As part of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival, “The Quare Land” has already won accolades before officially opening on October the 1st: Best Director for Ciaran O’Reilly, Best Playwright for John McManus, Special Jury Prize for Peter Maloney, and Best Design shared by the entire design team. That design team comprises: Charlie Corcoran (Set) Michael Gottlieb (Lighting), David Toser (Costumes), Ryan Rumery and M. Florian Staab (Sound) and their collective work is spectacular.
Rob, or “Robber” (Collins, a patient foil, at first) as Hugh likes to call him, a man of about 45 and owner of a construction company, comes to Hugh’s farmhouse on a hill in County Cavan, checkbook in hand, on a mission to buy the field necessary to complete a golf course for his upscale resort. But Hugh has other things on his mind: he obfuscates, digresses, tells a few stories from his long life. Hugh really doesn’t have time to listen, but listen he must if he wants Hugh’s field. And even then, he may not get what he wants.
This is a story of two generations of Irish: the old, cantankerous rural land owner who has enough to get by, lives his life entirely his own way, has a sense of his own history and is satisfied; and the younger man who is under immense pressure to succeed and has no use for history unless he can bulldoze over it. Witness the shaming Hugh does to Rob as Hugh relieves him of his watch:
“I can’t stand under your generation’s attachment to worldly goods. Big jeeps and huge houses and foreign trips and fake tits. (sermonizing) You don’t own the things you buy, the things you buy end up owning you.”
Except that, Hugh’s dreams of what he can buy in the future end up owning him as well, to his detriment. Generational differences not withstanding, it turns out that greed is ageless.