Irish Repertory Theatre presents the New York premiere of this touching drama, a portrait of Belfast during wartime, featuring a teenage girl and her budding relationship with a sympathetic priest. More…
In 1985 Belfast, fiery and profane Anne Malloy drinks and smokes her days away with her chubby curry chip-addicted best mate. When she turns to her parish priest, Father Reilly, seeking the comforts of the flesh in addition to the comforts of the soul, she discovers her troubles have just begun. A wry and bittersweet portrait of a city at war, 'The Belle of Belfast' forces us to consider what is wrong and what is righteous.
"An old-fashioned play in the best way. It tells a funny, sad, affecting and deep tale of forbidden passion and survival amid senseless violence through a straightforward sequence of exceptionally well-acted scenes, sharply and sensitively written." Full Review
"The Belle of Belfast begins at rest, but never lacks momentum. It opens with a cheeky and entertaining conversation between penitent Emma Malloy and her confessor. Peppered with foul language and comedy, this opening lays the framework for all that is to come...The genius of the play is in the way things that are compelling are juxtaposed with things that are flip. One moment you can be laughing because of a wisecrack, but the next moment, your heart can be tugged by a tender look." Full Review
"A strength of the play is that it doesn’t bang you over the head with history—it smartly focuses on the characters and their reactions to the events going on around them. While the play’s conclusion is somewhat dulled by leaving a few character motivations unexplained, it is nonetheless a poignant exploration of how political, religious and social turmoil can cause crises in both youth and faith." Full Review
"The Belle of Belfast, a little firebomb of a play, is now detonating in one of the best acted productions I’ve seen at this venerable Off Broadway venue...For all its punch, the play leans a bit on melodramatic contrivances, although to expose them would lead to spoilers. Still, the vigorously stageworthy dialogue, the heated issues broached, the colorful characterizations, and the uniformly three-dimensional acting satisfactorily cover the holes." Full Review
"Against the backdrop of war torn Belfast, the playwright infuses his potentially lugubrious story with humor. Mr. Edelman has a gift for dialogue and knows precisely how to balance wit with serious subjects. 'The Belle of Belfast' is thoroughly entertaining." Full Review
"So compellingly human...This ninety-minute production shows impressive efficiency in developing compelling characters with whose struggles we can empathize, regardless of how far we might be removed from Northern Irish violence. Anchored by dynamic performances, the production approaches violent political turmoil on the level of warm and insightful personal struggle." Full Review
"Like most ethnic theatre, 'The Belle of Belfast' tells one story in the specific experience of one group of people. Unlike most ethnic theatre, the show also transcends time and place and culture to strike at more universal themes. This play, with some obvious rewriting for dialect and place, could just as easily be set in South Central Los Angeles today as it is in West Belfast 1985." Full Review
"A gritty, grey area of brick wall and barbed wire, juxtaposed with a Rectory, embody the profane and the proper – the refuge of religion in contrast to the unrelentingly mundane...The play is tight, intelligently placing its core themes – aspects of love, disaffection, loneliness, bigotry – in the framework of a war zone, where all bets are off and death may be around the next corner." Full Review
"Of the characters, only Anne is shown as having multiple dimensions, and she actually does change and grow over time. She makes the most of the part, and it is both exciting and scary to watch her in her unpredictability. The rest of the cast does nicely within the limits of their sketchy roles, but the play feels unfinished, leaving us with our unanswered questions about the fate of this embattled community." Full Review
"Much of Edelman's play is devoted to Ben's struggle, which is a shame since there's little or no fire to it. We see that the priest is not happy but get no meaningful sense of the nuts and bolts of his internal conflict...The other characters all brim with life, even Father Behan drowning himself in drink and Emma, searching in vain for nonexistent sins. But, except for his intimacy with Anne, all Ben does is emit words." Full Review
"Just when you think Belfast is going to be an irreverent comedy, it drops the humor and becomes a meditation on religious violence. Just when you think it’s a meditation on religious violence, it drops the fervor and becomes a coming-of-age story. With only ninety minutes of runtime, entire scenes that feel unnecessary, and one too many sentimental Irish folksongs, Belle never quite picks up steam." Full Review
"None of the people in 'The Belle of Belfast' are sufficiently interesting; they tend to state their problems over and over until they become tiresome...There's rich material here, but it barely skims the surface. The story of a destabilizing passion, it never strikes fire, nor does it draw on its rich and tragic background for real emotional heft." Full Review
for a previous production "A new play has opened, 'The Belle of Belfast' and it is a true winner on every level. The story is poignant and powerful but also relatable...'The Belle of Belfast' is a magnificent tale of the imperfect human spirit very well acted and directed... Simply put 'The Belle of Belfast' is one terrific if more than just a tiny bit dark play and well worth seeing." Full Review
for a previous production "Dualities and continua are explored with rare intelligence in this densely packed one-act with such deftness, one is both struck dumb and inspired...Some might prefer, here, to see the two-act version so as to live a little longer with these characters...The richness and simplicity are in harmonious balance, delivering justice to the writer’s words, giving rich life to his paradox-laden world." Full Review
for a previous production "Nathan Rufus Edelman’s first produced play is quite a marvel: intuitively written, wonderfully produced, and acted...This is one of those sweet-wise plays that allow talented folk and interested audiences a chance to intertwine." Full Review
for a previous production "Choosing to write about the Irish Troubles comes with baggage. It takes skill, flair, and inspired energy to overcome the potential for jadedness. 'The Belle of Belfast' playwright Nate Rufus Edelman is largely up to the task...Edelman’s way of circling around the characters’ manipulations—of one another, and of their own notions of themselves—is sharp and well-observed...The writing is often quite funny...This play deserves to be heard—fully." Full Review
for a previous production "The private tragedies resulting from the 'Troubles' are depicted with irreverence and an underlying anguish in the world premiere of Nate Rufus Edelman’s artfully crafted anti-war work...The actors would do well to soften their brogue, but that is a minor issue considering the power of this production." Full Review
for a previous production "The well defined characters are sad and funny and touching...Though the lesson of the play is not to understand The Troubles, per se, we do become deeply involved in the motives and ethics of the characters as their lives unfold in this time of war, well told in Edelman’s play. Please go to see it for yourself." Full Review
for a previous production "The story is completely absorbing...Playwright Edelman is an Angeleno who spent some time in Ireland as a student. But he has spent most of his life in LA, and I look forward to seeing him produce a script that’s equally effective about the city that he presumably knows best." Full Review
for a previous production "It's a smart if slightly derivative play that holds its grip with the glue of a good soap opera. What it says about humanity may be slightly obvious, but the production is so carefully crafted, it's all worth the effort." Full Review
for a previous production "Edelman has also given us a very funny play, and laughter is a wonderful compensator when it comes to glazing over a play’s fundamental problem. He has penned a very well-written work that falls short of being a play. His characters are well chiseled, his dialogue crackles nicely, what’s lacking is the drama. Regrettably there is not one surprise to be found in the show...This play intends torrential agonies of “Paradise Lost”, but only drizzles with the annoyance of 'Paradise Misplaced'." Full Review
See it if Very well acted, this show tells a story of teen-age struggles and more. Set in Belfast in the mid 80's, yet still relevant.
Don't see it if you have trouble with accents, don't appreciate confession scenes,
See it if you like strong character studies. This coming-of-age dramedy has few plot surprises, but provides an opportunity for good acting.
Don't see it if you want real depth, especially about the priest who strays from his faith, beguiled by the charms of a lovely lass. Solid Irish Rep fare.