Who got the girl

Poor Mouth carves out a niche

Brendan Goggins and Aaron Souza in Janice Young’s "Who Got the Girl," which will be performed this week at the Poor Mouth Theatre Company as part of its 5th anniversary celebrations. PHOTO: LIZ GUARRACINO

By Peter McDermott

When passing An Beal Bocht Café in the Bronx one day towards the end of the last decade, the author Colin Broderick saw some redevelopment taking place. It appeared that a new room was being added. He called up his friend Don Creedon to suggest that it might be a good time and place to form a theater company.

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“He didn’t have to ask me twice,” Creedon said in an interview last week.

They named it the Poor Mouth Theatre Company – drawing on the English title of the Irish-language classic by Flann O’Brien, which inspired the name of the café on West 238th Street. The founders will celebrate five years with a special five-play production this week.

Their plot didn’t come out of vacuum. The men had form, as a detective at Scotland Yard might say. But not as partners in crime; rather they had both been prominent in the artistic ferment experienced after large numbers of immigrant 20-somethings settled in the Bronx from the mid-1980s on.

“There was quite a scene there,” Creedon said.

Broderick had been a member of the Irish Bronx Theatre Company, founded by Dubliners Jimmy Smallhorne and the late Chris O’Neill, a familiar face from back home as Michael Riordan in TV’s “The Riordans.” Meanwhile, director, playwright and actor Creedon founded the Macalla Theatre Company.

The native of Clontarf in north Dublin, left a permanent and pensionable civil service job in 1985 to be an actor in New York.

“Like a lot of parents [would be], mine were ambivalent,” he said. “The idea was to get a good job -- be a solicitor or a teacher or a civil servant.

“But parents also want their children to be happy and I was very unhappy,” said Creedon, who studied for two years at the Brendan Smith Academy of Acting in his native city.

The civil service employment rolls were increased to deal with youth joblessness, but the flip side of the policy allowed for extended leaves of absence. Creedon took three years, and never went back. He joked that he might yet turn up in Dublin to claim that pension.

In 1986, he got a “fairly small role” in the Irish Arts Center production of “The Tunnel,” which was written by Terry George, directed by Jim Sheridan and included Frank McCourt in the cast. “I was delighted to be working with that group of people,” he remembered.

“Frank was still a teacher,” Creedon said, adding that that hasn’t changed much for New York’s Irish actors.

“We all need our day jobs,” said the Dubliner, who is currently an executive assistant and has been involved with other types of office work such as desktop publishing.

Actors have traditionally been drawn to jobs that require competence, diligence and hard work, but that don’t overuse the creative or what Creedon called the “writing” side of the brain.

There is always the temptation in the profession, he said, to throw caution to the wind and concentrate wholly on getting acting jobs. But that, he said, can place an “unfair burden” on the artist that in the end compromises the work.

“I used to think that to be successful you had to achieve a lot of fame,” Creedon said. “But I’ve evolved. Success is continuing to work at things that really interest you and inspire you.

“I’ve come to respect people who pursue their own art and manage to survive,” he added.

Creedon praised the work of the well-established Irish Arts Center, the Irish Repertory Theatre and, the more recent addition, the Origin Theatre Company, but he believes there’s a need for a company that does more readings and development.

“With low overheads,” he said, “it’s possible to take risks.

“Sometimes you’ll say: ‘That wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.’ But that’s what a writer needs.

“It’s better than being in ‘development hell,’ where the playwright never finds out,” added Creedon, who lives in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., with his partner Alison Choate, a graphic artist.

“New work, new plays,” are what interest Creedon. “Writing, rewriting and the reading process,” he said, “and then finally getting it to the stage.”

The Poor Mouth, these days, is close to doing a production a month and in celebration of that – and its five years -- will stage five short works, on three occasions, this week, in a space that Creedon calls a “little piece of heaven.”

The Poor Mouth Theatre Company will stage its 5th anniversary production with 5 short plays tomorrow, Thursday night, at 8 p.m., on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., at An Beal Bocht Café, 445 West 238th St., Bronx, N.Y. The plays are: “Who Got The Girl,” by Janice Young; “The Blood Flow Thing,” by Seamus Scanlan; “The Disreputable” by Ron Young; “Moonlight Sonata” by Brona Crehan; and “Divine Intervention,” by Don Creedon.