DTF’s World Premiere of “Thirst” Satisfies Your Love of Theater

Dorset Theatre Festival has a fantastic, hard fought celebration of life, love and theater in it’s World Premiere of Ronán Noone’s “Thirst” directed by their resident playwright, Theresa Rebeck.

The play takes place in the Tyrone family’s (from O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”) kitchen on the day in which that monumental play takes place and it revolves around the Tyrone’s servants. The alcoholic cook, Bridget (Kathy McCafferty) takes center stage and is joined by the chauffer Jack (David Mason) and her niece, the maid Cathleen (Meg Hennesy), the only character who actually shows up in O’Neill’s masterpiece.

Meg Hennessy, Kathy McCafferty/Joey Moro

If the Tyrones are the epitome of the miserable American family in dramatic literature, their servants can give them a run for their money in the pitiable sweepstakes. Bridget emigrated shamefully 16 years ago after giving birth to a bastard who her sister is raising in Ireland. She drinks excessively but puts her faith in a contract she made with God to remain chaste if He will protect her. Jack lost his wife to tuberculosis in a sanitorium which he could not bring himself to visit and pines  painfully for Bridget, independence and stature. Cathleen has survived her crossing on the Titanic with the children passenger’s cries still fresh in her ears four months later. She still has enough optimism to dream of a life onstage while life continues to batter her.

Sounds like a good time? It is a glorious, joyful play that acknowledges and even parades the pain that we can suffer from the slings and arrows through station in life, fate and poor decisions made under duress and limited emotional intelligence or opportunity. By placing these three literally next door to the Tyrones we also see the immigrant experience through the poor servant class. They can talk magnificently though and Noone has given all three stunning monologues which beguile you as readily as they break your heart. Jack wails in a frustrating late night clinch with Bridget “What kind of race of people are you that love to struggle so much?”

Meg Hennessy, David Mason/Joey Moro

The proximity to the Tyrones also provides backstage glimpses and heightens yopur interest with theatrical lore as the day wears on and you hear Mary entering with her wedding dress or Jamie trimming the hedge. Cathleen and James have a hilarious dissection of the Tyrone’s attitudes and postures. Noone states in his program bio that “an editor said his writing was de-constructive and did not meet the formula for a newspaper’s parameters. Later, he immigrated to America and submitted that play to Boston Playwright’s Theatre and studied with Nobel laureate Derek Walcott. There he understood that deconstruction was not a bad word and for a play to develop you need the support, belief and resources of a theatre community behind you.”

Director Theresa Rebeck brought this play to Dorset’s Artistic Director Dina Janis before the pandemic but it is an extraordinarily good choice to close out this first summer back indoors of the Dorset Playhouse as it sanctifies the faith and love that we who cherish theater practice every day after too many days being locked out.

David Mason, Kathy McCafferty/Joey Moro

The stagecraft is impeccable. David Mason and Kathy McCafferty have intense chemistry that is as hot as the summer day. The attraction and frustration are palpable. Meg Hennessy’s high spirits turned to scalding self-loathing,  her rueful thoughts on decisions by one so young are piercing. All three work hard in this kitchen under Rebeck’s direction cooking, serving and washing.

The play is graced with another of Christopher & Justin Swader’s brilliant hyper-realistic sets. Mary Ellen Stebbins does a superlative job taking us through the course of the New London day. Great costumes by Fabian Fidel Aguilar.

Kathy McCafferty/Joey Moro

There is thankfully still time and opportunity to catch the very best that American theater has to offer with a drive up to the cool woods of Dorset and their miraculous “Thirst.” Sláinte!

Through 9/3 @ Dorset Theatre Festival

Tickets: www.dorsettheatrefestival.org or 802-867-2223

Comments are closed.