Theatrical Comedy ‘The Irish Curse’ Calls Brooklyn Heights Home

Hey, Brooklyn Heights, we’re being dramatized again. A new play by acclaimed and well-traveled scriptwriter Martin Casella, “The Irish Curse,” opened July 7 at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles, and is set in our humble hood.

The dramedy revolves around a group of Irish-American men who meet weekly in a Catholic church basement in Brooklyn Heights as part of a self-help group for guys who believe they are cursed because they possess… small winkies. The alleged Irish trait, they believe, has ruined their lives, and therein lies the theme: “a revealing portrait of how men and society define masculinity, male identity and the relationships” men face in their daily lives.

Directed by Andrew Barnicle, “The Irish Curse” is praised for its “spunky, fiery humor, a crafty analysis of contemporary relationships, both straight and gay, and an unexpected keen exploration of how the issue affects our political and cultural world,” according to Broadway World. It’s “a funny and stimulating evening of theater, especially for men with problems of insecurity and the women who love them in spite of it.”

The play premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival with a sold-out run in 2005, winning the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Playwriting. It was also staged at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Here’s more from the Broadway World review:

Set in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., three weekly regulars join Father Kevin Shaunessy (Joe Pacheco): Joseph Flaherty (Scott Conte), a lawyer, Rick Baldwin (Austin Hebert), a student in sports medicine and Stephen Fitzgerald (Shaun O’Hagan), a gay cop. Father Kevin brings in newcomer Kieran Riley (Patrick Quinlan), a roofer recently transplanted from Ireland.

It’s a weekly discussion group for all, who have small penises. As part of the issue, there’s the factor of loneliness that automatically plays into their lives. Joseph, for example, was happily married with two little girls, until his wife and he grew further apart; Stephen has anonymous sex only and refuses to have a relationship with anyone. Rick is so embarrassed he wears a sock in his crotch. Even quiet Father Kevin opens up for the first time at this meeting, due to Kieran’s insistence that everyone airs their feelings in an effort to help him face a marriage that terrifies him. He truly loves his fiance but cannot tolerate the thought of her rejecting him.

The funniest moments present themselves when the men must face macho habits honestly, like why men carry guns or why they wage war. It is not hatred, but the unmitigated fear that others may have bigger endowments than they do. It’s one hilarious pouring forth of male insecurity: funny but simultaneously sad and unproductive. Where do thoughts of warmth and love figure into the big picture? Casella does not disappoint.

This is hardly a picnic; it’s not “Puppetry of the Penis,” but a therapeutic, healing play in which honesty is at the core. And with honesty, anger and frustration come pouring out. Andrew Barnicle has directed the five men with great understanding, clarity and with a strong emphasis on heart. Thomas A. Walsh’s scenic design of the parish’s basement meeting hall is amazingly true to life.

“The Irish Curse” plays at the Odyssey Theatre in L.A. through August 26. Read more here.

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