Eva O’Connor and Ciaran O’Brien. PHOTO BY LUNARIA
By Orla O’Sullivan
“Maz and Bricks” kicks off Origin’s 1st Irish Theater Festival and Maz, one of the two characters in this spare play, seems ready to kick something when we first encounter her. She, a serious girl from the countryside, and Bricks, the proverbial Dublin lad, happened to be sitting seated opposite each other on tram, the Luas.
The two 20-somethings make for a fun study in contrasts, she furiously marking up her protest sign – en route to a march calling for abortion to be legalized – he regaling a friend with tales of the previous night’s sexual exploits, while on his way to pick up his daughter who is, naturally, being raised by the mother, alone.
His macho bravado, such as “are the chubby ones always surprise you!“ wouldn’t endear him to any self-respecting woman and eventually the pair get into a minor dispute, and then go their separate ways.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Later, they cross paths again. Bricks – who got that nickname after a window smash that led to his first trouble with the police – intervenes before Maz gets herself in trouble. She’s picking up a stone intended for one of the elderly women mounting a pro-life counter protest.
Maybe this pair have more in common than they think. “Did you see the 90-year-old with a plastic fetus on a stick? Do they order them off eBay or what?” Maz rhetorically asks Brix, in an example of the quintessentially Irish dark sense of humor the play displays – at least in the first half.
Her internal monologue turns to a kind of rap, the medium for most of the rest of the play. “I’ve lost my placard and picked up this cocky bastard… There’s a very real danger that this head-the-ball stranger has a few screws loose.”
Rapping is a way to show that this duo is falling into one rhythm and probably a good marketing device to attract younger audiences to theatre, which at times seems like a dying art form.
Though cleverly conceived, the persistent rhyming also becomes tedious (I say this with apologies to Leaving Certificate examiner for the English paper who had to mark my essay written mostly in verse, heady though it was for me).
With the layering of words the raps bring, there’s also a layering of preachiness and self-pity. There are several earnest allusions to Ireland’s vague crimes against its citizens, with both the young women who have died in botched abortions and the young men who have committed suicide somehow linked.
Contrary to the tourist board “propaganda,” The Irish air is “rancid and stale… no wonder we’re all so repressed, so bluish pale”. At times the play seems to be flogging a dead horse.
It’s a pity the play loses much of the humor and momentum it had on the tram, since Eva O’Connor is undoubtedly talented both as playwright and performer.
Ciaran O’Brien has some stand-out scenes. One was the completely credible withholding of access to Bricks’s child by his ex, in the way scorned women often wield their children as weapons in divorce. The play is even-handed in its treatment of both sexes.
At the end of their 24-hour odyssey, Maz and Bricks have changed each other. Bricks has allowed Maz to hope for love and Maz has shown him to start seeing the world through women’s eyes.
The production by Dublin’s Fishamble, a provider of festival favorites over the years, also makes inventive use of a basically bare stage to evoke locations out of thin air. However, this production could definitely have aborted about 20 of its 80-minute runtime.
“Maz and Bricks,” by and starring Eva O’Connor, opposite Ciaran O’Brien, is at 59E59 until Feb. 2; director Jim Culleton. (Tickets at www.59e59.org/)