Enda Walsh The Walworth Farce / Freud Playhouse, UCLA (the performance I saw was on Saturday, November 14, 2009)
In a dilapidated South London apartment a relocated Irishman, Dinny, is busy massaging lotion into his shaved head, while in the other room his son Blake is casually slipping into a woman's dress. Enter the second son, Sean, who has evidently been out shopping and, upon unpacking his groceries, discovers, to his great dismay, that he has been given the wrong package. We sense something is about to begin, and before we know it, the three have begun a farcical drama incorporating outlandish switches of costume, scene, situation, and even genre.
We now begin to perceive, as the play progresses, that the work is less a farce than a kind of lunatic murder mystery, a mad justification of a violent rampage that left the family motherless and ended in their escape from Cork to the British capital; and the implications of those murders suggest that Hayley will never be allowed to leave the house alive.
slathering of white lotion by Dinny into "white face"—sputter out their lines, Sean increasingly moves away from the script, until he is locked in a closet by his brother, Blake, who takes up a knife and kills his own father. As he frees Sean from his imprisonment, Sean, in turn, stabs Blake, while in the midst of this melodramatic mayhem, Hayley bolts.
Walsh obviously attempts to do that with the figure of Hayley, whose very "ordinariness" and acceptance of these ridiculous beings helps to humanize them. Yet Hayley's actions in The Walworth Farce consists primarily of her cowering in the kitchen, and her role is too small to lend much depth to the three adult men supposedly performing a ritual based on lies night after night. The deaths of Dinny and Boyle, accordingly, do not so much shock us as "relieve" the viewer from attending the horror show with which they have bombarded him.
Sean's final actions ultimately seem to have less to do with finding a new self than with discovering reality, whatever that might mean, something we doubt this permanently infantile character will ever be able to accomplish.
Los Angeles, November 18, 2009