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Student Spring Production: "Dancing at Lughnasa"

By James Trent
On April 11, 2018

Concord's theater department delivered a more serious production this spring with the Irish drama "Dancing at Lughnasa."
Photo Courtesy of James Trent

Concord’s Theater Department debuted its production of Irish playwright Brian Fiel’s drama, “Dancing at Lughnasa,” on Wednesday, April 11.

Michael Mundy (played by Christopher Conhenour) narrates the play as he remembers the summer of 1936 in his small, childhood home in northern Ireland. Michael, who is a child during most of the play’s events, reminisces about his four aunts and his mother as they deal with changing times and familial hardships after Michael’s uncle Father Jack (played by Blake A. Whitener) returns from Somalia with malaria. Michael’s aunt Kate (played by Brianna Duckworth) is the religious backbone of the family, and does not like the tribal traditions Father Jack has brought home with him or the other “pagan” influences in the town. Michael’s aunts Agnes and Rosie (played by Brooke King and Hannah Gates respectively) make their living by knitting gloves for other townspeople, but are put out of business when a knitting factory is opened near the small Irish town.
Meanwhile Michael’s mother Christina (played by Megan Perdue) is dealing with Michael’s father Gerry (played by Caleb Zopp) returning after leaving Christina for a year and telling the family that he plans to join the Spanish military. All the while Aunt Maggie (played by Maizy Landreth) tries to alleviate the tension in the family and keep the sisters from berating or badgering each other to death, while occasionally thinking about the youth she did not have.
What lighthearted moments there are in the play do not last for very long. Any quips or fun bits always keep a dramatic feeling to them, as some other character’s issues are sure to undercut the jovial scenes. Even when the characters are dancing to old music, or playfully teasing each other about small things, the tension is not lost. The somber tone is consistent, and there are few genuine laughs to be had.
The play is very dramatic and serious, a change of pace for the theater department after recently doing “The Jack Tales” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Nevertheless, all of the actors do a phenomenal job portraying the depth and drama of each of the characters. No actor is dispensable, as the story balances each and every character’s story so well that any weak link would break the chain. The whole cast does some of their best work yet showing the tension and heartache the family endures throughout the play. The cast also does an impressive job keeping up their Irish accents the entire time, and the dialogue and banter of the play comes across as very natural and realistic.
The work and dedication behind the scenes shows as well. Karen Vuranch, the production’s director and theatre instructor at Concord, said, “I always want to give a shout-out to my Stagecraft class... They have build [the] set singlehandedly. All that work is them. I could not have done this without Stagecraft class.” Most of the play takes place within the Mundy home, which feels authentic and believable for the play. The house feels tight and minimalist, which serves to underscore the tight bonds the family has as well as the tension they feel for being cooped up with only each other for so long.
“I’m feeling very good about the show,” Vuranch said. “I am so proud of these students, both the actors and the Stagecraft students … Everybody has worked really hard to pull this show together.” “Dancing at Lughnasa” will run from April 11-13 in the Alexander Fine Arts building at 7 p.m. Tickets are free for anyone with a valid Concord ID. Otherwise, tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for senior citizens. Tickets may be reserved in advance at and can be picked up before 6:45 p.m. before each showing.


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