Colette Forde in her own play “Innit,” which is currently on at the SoHo Playhouse.
By Orla O’Sullivan
The plays of two young women spotted in Ireland earlier this year open tonight at the SoHo Playhouse. They will run in repertory until Aug. 5 under the banner Irish Women Write.
Eavan Brennan and Colette Forde are the same age, 35, and based in Munster, but they did not know each other when their respective plays, “Get The Boat” and “Innit” ran at Limerick Fringe in April.
The pair, who were also both born in Dublin but raised elsewhere, quickly got to know each other after Darren Lee Cole, producing artistic director of the SoHo Playhouse, invited them to perform in New York—a first. (Forde acts in and directs her solo show while Brennan plays opposite Siobhan Donnellan, under the direction of Ruth Smith.)
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They first met during a radio interview on their initial visit to New York in May. “That was the day I arrived and had a fun race from Newark airport to WBAI in Brooklyn!” Brennan recalled.
Her play, about women facing an abortion, comes on the heels of the May 26 abortion referendum in Ireland. Forde’s is about the perennially relevant topic of a rebellious but hurting teenager.
The Echo was in touch with the playwrights just after the first preview performance last weekend and they were high on the experience.
Eavan Brennan’s “Get the Boat” runs at
the SoHo Playhouse through Aug. 5.
“We were so thrilled and touched to have an audience at all tonight never mind their great numbers and generous appreciation,” Brennan said, adding, “It’s hard to describe to New Yorkers how surreal it is to be in New York. It’s like walking around in a film set.”
Forde agreed, “The first preview was extremely encouraging,” adding, “Being in New York I feel at home instantly.
“It is a dream come true to have somebody like Darren Lee Cole see something in my work and whisk it over to the States.”
Cole is a director who has many times been nominated for Obie and Drama Desk awards and the SoHo Playhouse, with almost 180 seats, is a well-known off-Broadway venue.
The venue shows work form elsewhere, rather than producing its own. That includes the best work found at fringe festivals around the world, of which this run is not a part.
SoHo Playhouse has had various Irish connections over the years, including a play with Irish actor Patrick Boll that the Echo featured in 2014. Moreover, when the theatre opened under another name in 1962, its first play was based on Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake.”
For both Brennan and Forde this is not just their New York debut but represents their first professional plays. Forde has since written others, plus film scripts, while Brennan formerly co-wrote as part of a theatre group and performed across Europe “with the wonderful Footsbarn Traveling Theatre”.
She said that she does not feel that the recent abortion referendum dates her play, which was written in November 2017, about women forced overseas for an abortion since Irish people just voted to broadly allow abortion.
“Although we have voted for repeal, the legislation may not be enacted before 2019,” Brennan said, so many women—typically 10 a day—will be continuing to travel.
Even after the legislation is enacted, she added, “The play will remain relevant as essentially the central discussion – Is there such a thing as a ‘good abortion’? – will continue regardless.”
The two characters in her play finally share the secret of why they are on the boat. They share, Brennan said, a “heartfelt connection in the way that you sometimes only can with a stranger.”
In that, Brennan’s play has something in common with Forde’s, where a teenager, initially loath to tell a therapist why she is there, finally unburdens herself.
An hour later, Forde said, “She realizes that this is the first time anybody has ever just listened to her. It’s compelling because it is innate in all of us: The need to be heard!”
Come listen at 15 Vandam St. in Manhattan.
“Get The Boat” and “Innit” are at the SoHo Playhouse through Aug. 5. Tickets and information at www.sohoplayhouse.com.