“Dancing at Lughnasa” is not easy to pull off. Brian Friel’s script about 1936 Irish culture goes on for over two hours. The entire play takes place at a singular cottage. “Dancing at Lughnasa” requires mastering tricky Irish accents and expecting bloody Yanks to follow along.
Over the Ledge Theatre’s production of “Dancing at Lughnasa” does not seem tedious, incomprehensible or irrelevant. It offers rich character portraits of five very different sisters. The performances, speech and dancing by the actors playing them, help draw us in to make their version succeed.
Amelia Rogocka is Christina — the Mundy sister with an illegitimate son. Rogocka’s superb expressions and gestures give the character innocent charm and sparkle. Rogocka commands attention even when not speaking.
Shannon Bowen is the older, cigarette-smoking Maggie. Bowen’s portrayal of a strong and energetic sister is convincing on both counts. Sister Agnes is usually more subdued, but Miranda Sue Hartmann gives her a dynamic personality. Chelsea Witgen, as Rose, smartly plays a not-always-smart sister. Gini Larson is the oldest sister, Kate. With a sharp and likable performance, Larson creates a hard to like character. The men in “Dancing at Lughnasa” also fit their roles. Joseph Dickson convincingly plays a grown-up Michael Evans. Connor Kelly, as Gerry Evans, gives charm to a despicable dad. And Rick Dethlefsen excels as an often-befuddled Father Jack.
Mary Job deserves credit for choosing a well suited and talented cast — and for a direction that keeps a crowded stage fluid. The ingenious set with partial and detailed walls by Job and Jeff Miller is never boring. Liz Cook’s accurate and extensive props add much. Bryan Ruhf’s many sound cues are exact. Intricate choreography by Lisa Whiting Dobson and Amanda Kennedy is exciting.
Clearly, this Yankee found “Dancing at Lughnasa” memorable.
“Dancing at Lughnasa”
Sept. 13-16 Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. $10 adult, $8 senior, $6 student The Ledges Playhouse 137 Fitzgerald Park Dr., Grand Ledge (517) 318-0579 www.overtheledge.org