Don’t piss off Victor McGowan. His milky white complexion and innocent eyes might seduce you. You’ll drink some ale, share some tales,and reminisce about the good ‘ole days. It will be like spending time with an old friend and it will bring comfort. And then…(spoiler alert)…you’ll be dead as a doornail.
McGowman (Paul Nugent) is the central figure in Seamus Scanlon’s contemporary Irish play The McGowan Trilogy: a Serial in Three Acts. In Act 1 (“Dancing at Lunacy”), McGowman bursts into an Irish pub circa 1984. At first he befriends and later terrorizes Ahern (Matt Golden), Pender (Phillip Callen), and the barman (Conor McIntyre), each of whom have unknowingly irritated McGowan in a way that leads to their “permanent removal”.
The second act (“The Long Wet Grass”) takes us into a wooded area where Mcgowan and a former love interest (Anna Nugent) meet to discuss their past. Polite discussion ensues, followed by tense talks, and topped off with…you guessed it…”permanent removal”.
In the final act (“Boy Swam Before Me”) McGowman is charged with taking care of his ill mother, May McGowan, a feeble, dementia and bed ridden soul whose constant questioning and singing exacerbates her son’s angst. Eventually, things don’t end very well with her.
McGowan’s fiery revolutionary seems to respond to each of his discontents with abrupt violence. Maybe this is due to his fierce loyalty to the Irish Republican Army. Maybe paranoia adds to his burden? . Whatever the case, life seems to be nettlesome and overwhelming. Nugent portrays him with honest sincerity and deep complexity. His fellow cast mates, however, seem to be playing on a different field. The Irish brogues sound feigned and it is difficult to pinpoint where they actually from.
The play itself carries the same tone and pacing of a Martin McDonagh piece. It us unpredictable, warped, and shocking. Only McDonagh’s language is clever and darkly funny. With him. there is no attempt to be provocative. There simply is provocation. Playwright Seamus Scanlon appears to be emulating the same subversive style , but is unfortunately coming up empty-handed
The McGowan Trilogy plays now through Oct. 5, 2014 at the Cell (338 W. 23rd Street between 8th and 9th ave.) For info and tickets, http://www.thecelltheatre.org/events/2014/9/11/the-mcgowan-trilogy-7-pm