The Pagans


“The Pagans”
a kate west review
written by Ann Noble, directed by Scott Cummins
at The Road Theatre Company, Lankershim Arts Center
5108 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood
(818) 761-8829,; running through April 24

Audiences usually relate quite well to good family drama as so many of us have experienced that type of conflict. The award-winning Road Theatre Company handles this discord nicely in their recent production of “The Pagans.”

Prodigal son Michael Riordan, now fallen from grace, finally returns to Ireland after five years in America. Shaun O’Hagan plays Michael with depth and dignity, while remaining the cornerstone around which the other characters revolve. It turns out that when he left Ireland, he also left behind the love of his life, Danaan (co-Producer Marci Hill) who, unbeknownst to him, has borne his son Connor. His brother Tadhg (played by the intensely sexy Erin Beaux) has been acting as a father figure to Connor in Michael’s absence.

Michael’s return results in many surprises, including bringing home his American wife Anna (uninterestingly portrayed by Lauren Clark). Alex Douglas is also rather weak as the family friend, Bobby Quinn. However, the rest of the cast is very strong, including James K. Ward as Thomas, the father and Peggy Billo as the fiercely bitter spinster, Aunt Frances. Artistic Director, Taylor Gilbert, plays Margaret, the mother of the Irish brood and does a fine job as the voice of reason as well as acting as the glue that hold the family together in the midst of tragedy. Her performance is subtle and multi-layered and she pulls off the perfect level of emotional intensity.

Playwright Ann Noble succinctly sets up the many conflicts in the first act which are all quickly resolved in the second act. The troubled Tadhg’s untimely end may seem a bit forced; however, Director Scott Cummins deftly motivates his actors to show a range of emotion in the logical unfolding of the tale. What may have been a predictable soap opera is converted into a gripping drama, by the strong directing, solid acting (for the most part), realistically accessible dialogue and vividly sympathetic characters. Set Designer Desma Murphy also presents a detailed and cozy set creating a wonderfully apt setting and atmosphere for this touching story.

This moving play keenly resonates with the audience as we watch each character undergo a dramatic transformation, enabling them to be a stronger family on the road to self-discovery. “The Pagans” is a sold production with a nice emotional payoff and the Road Theatre Company well deserves its critically acclaimed reputation.

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