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Saturday, June 24, 2006


I had a terrific experience at the Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University in West Long Branch last night seeing "Da," the Tony-winning autobiographical play by Irish playwright Hugh Leonard. My "date" for the evening was Georgette, the lovely and funny wife of actor Bill Timoney, a star of this Shadow Lawn Stage production. Bill has been a friend of Kathy's and mine since the late '80s.

This was the first time I'd seen "Da," and I really connected with it, not just because of Leonard's beautiful words, but thanks to the cast, which was truly wonderful.

Ed Schiff as Da amazed me with his posture alone. My grandfather Henry Joseph Kelly, an Irish immigrant, was a groundskeeper all his life. It was back-breaking work, and he did it right up until he died at age 80. Schiff's posture, not to mention his thick white hair and worn heavy shoes, brought back my "Pop Pop," who I worked alongside for 10 summers (1969-1978) as his assistant groundskeeper. Schiff's dialect and humor likewise rang true.

Brendan Ryan and Bill Rogers were exhuberant; Briana Trautman-Maier was radiant; Linda Cameron reminded me of every Irish aunt I had; Kyle Bradford and Annette Hillary excelled in supporting roles. And Bill -- well, Georgette and I aren't being prejudiced. His charm and command carried the night as Charlie, standing there in his raincoat, reliving the joys and regrets of his life.

Another reason I enjoyed the production so much was the theater itself, which has an intimate layout not unlike the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. Performances of "Da" run through July 9 (732-263-5730 or 732-571-3483).



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