There are treats to be had, both onstage and off, in the exquisite production of “Lady G: Plays and Whisperings of Lady Gregory,” presented by the Irish Repertory Theatre. Written by Lady Augusta Gregory with additional material cleverly added by Ciarán O’Reilly and directed by O’Reilly as well, this portrait of a life through theater is in a way a meta-play; Lady G was one of the founders of the illustrious Abbey Theatre in Dublin, so much of her life was lived through the theatre as well. Lady G (Úna Clancy, perfectly cast) addresses the audience, drawing us in to her passions, her friendships, her family, her single-mindedness, her plays, and her losses.
Lady G’s circle included two fellow founding members of the Abbey: Poet, playwright and 1923 Nobel-prizewinner William Butler Yeats (James Russell) and John Quinn (John Keating). She had an unrequited love for the dashing Quinn (and as I heard a woman say after the play, “How could she not fall for Quinn in that beautiful blue suit?”) and an affair with Wilfred Blunt (also played by John Keating). She married a man 30 years her senior, and it was a happy marriage, but left her a widow at the age of 40, with one son, William, who was the light of her life. Two of her one-act plays are included: “Workhouse Ward,” a hoot with Keating, Russell, and the marvelous Terry Donnelly; and the sobering “McDonough’s Wife” with Clancy, Donnelly and Keating.
John Keating, James Russell, and Terry Donnelly create a cast of thousands and they will dazzle you with their sleight of hand, with their ease sliding in and out of character, with their brilliance. Úna Clancy has the most difficult part, narrating her own life, and anchors the show with an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove. They are all helped enormously by Costume Designer David Toser, who has outdone himself in sartorial splendor: the handmade, long, black, pleated dress with lace panels that Lady G wears; the aforementioned three-piece blue flecked suit worn by John Quinn in particular. The set by Charlie Corcoran, including that enormous tree on Lady G’s land (which exists today and can be visited), covered in the carved initials of all of her friends and family, is just wonderful.
I was out with an Irish friend today, and he said that there are people walking around who have no idea who Lady Gregory was, her enormous contribution to the theatre, or her plays. “Lady G: Plays and Whisperings of Lady Gregory,” is a perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with Lady G, to let yourself be drawn in to her world, her circle, to experience her quiet genius. Genius loves company. And, don’t tell anyone, but there is cake, too.