“Wild Sky” is an Irish tale, told in a traditional Irish format

“Wild Sky” is an Irish tale, told in a traditional Irish format

By Jordan Wright (Courtesy photo)

After half a decade, Solas Nua, the celebrated Irish-centric performing arts company, has returned with Deirdre Kinahan’s play, “Wild Sky.”

Written in commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising, the five-day war for Irish independence, it revisits the occasion of its centenary with a scorching drama filled with fiery passion and emotional sensitivity.

To offer a bit of background, the play takes place 100 years ago when Irish nationalists took up arms against the British, who governed Ireland with an iron hand, outlawing the Irish language and forbidding Irish culture. And though the Dublin-centered battle claimed the lives of many fighters on both sides, it was successful in setting into motion the wheels of change, inspiring Nobel Prize winning poet W. B. Yeats and Douglas Hyde, scholar, author and first president of the Republic of Ireland to create the Gaelic League, whose responsibility it was to protect and create cultural expression.

Using the bloody uprising as the backdrop, Kinahan gives us a heart-wrenching tale from the viewpoint of Tom Farrell (Dylan Morrison), one of the fighters, his feisty and funny childhood friend Josie Dunne (Megan Graves), and a Greek female chorus played by Beth Amann, Daven Ralston and Ashley Zielinski. To say it is fierce is an understatement. To say their performances are spine-chilling barely does it justice.

We see Tom as a young revolutionary. Left behind while his friends have gone to fight the French alongside the British, at first he is eager to take up arms to impress the beautiful Josie. But after a few days of fighting he becomes traumatized by the realities of war and questions his involvement.

Josie is frustrated that as a woman she can’t participate in the fighting. Still she is conflicted, believing all this killing will amount to nothing. “What was our grand plan?” she asks. “They talked about women’s rights and women’s jobs and it made sense.”

Morrison and Graves give indelible performances heightened by the interweaving of the flat-toned harmonies of mournful Irish ballads played on drum, fiddle and banjo. A particularly haunting tune, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” recalls the 1798 rebellion which had also failed to throw off 800 years of British rule.

As with performances during the centuries of Irish cultural suppression, these too are presented in the living rooms of private homes. The one I attended was in the large living room of a Dupont Circle townhouse with a charming walled garden where cast members offered Gaelic language and dance instruction before the show.

Rex Daugherty, director, choreographer, musician and cast member, brings a profound immediacy to the characters in this absorbing world premiere production.