By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli
In a cold, remote part of 1950’s southern Ireland, the Glavin family gets an offer they can’t refuse in John B. Keane’s “Sive.” It’s an offer full of dark consequences.
Mena (Karen Baum) and Mike (Michael Fuller) Glavin run a ramshackle cottage, working every day to make ends meet. They are not the sole occupants. Mike’s mother, Nanna (Sharon Brady), and his niece Sive (Cassidy Adkins) live with them. It is not exactly a happy home. Mena and her mother-in-law despise one another. A torrent of caustic barbs fly back and forth between them, like bullets over a battlefield.
One day, Thomasheen Sean Rua (James FitzGerald), the local matchmaker, enters the Glavin cottage and makes an unscrupulous deal with Mena. He has been offered a large sum of money to procure Sive for marriage to a rich-but-old neighbor, Sean Dota (Charles David Richards).
A chasm of years stand between the nubile Sive and the wizened Dota, but he is willing to pay big money for her hand. Rua would receive a healthy sum and the Glavin’s would also profit from the deal. Thomasheen Sean Rua sweetens the pot by promising Mena that Sive would most likely want to take her grandmother with her, freeing Mena of the bickering pipe-smoking crone who constantly criticizes her.
Mena convinces her husband Mike that the deal is legit. He reluctantly agrees to help make the match.
Sive, however, has other plans. She’s in love with Liam Scuab (Tom Driscoll), a local boy whose family has tenuous ties to the Glavin’s family history.
The scheming and conniving reach a crescendo and soon Mike and Mena become horribly aware of their own greed. Innocents will suffer.
“Sive” is lyrical, melancholy and sad. Everything you would expect from John B. Keane, the author of “Sharon’s Grave.” Unfortunately, “Sharon’s Grave” a piece PICT produced in the past (pardon the alliteration), is a superior play, with a rich metaphysical and mythological subtext. “Sive” is the poor stepchild to “Sharon’s Grave.” Mostly, because the characters are so unlikable. There’s no one to really root for.
Sive, herself, is an underdeveloped character. She is a cypher. Her beau, Liam, is also barely in the play. The reasons are obvious. Keane, most likely, sought to spare the audience of any sort of Romeo and Juliet retread. Though, the elements are all there for such a tale.
More than anything else, the story is about avarice, and how money can make good people into monsters. Mena is Machiavellian in her search for financial freedom. Baum plays her with Mena with brutal fierceness. Her scenes with Brady’s Nanna are riveting. There’s a twisted joy to watch them attack each other with such fire and ferocity.
What “Sive” does have is a plethora of quirky characters, especially Pats Bobcock (Martin Giles) and his sidekick, Cathalawn (J. Alex Noble). Marvelously played by Giles and Noble. They ignite the stage in their brief appearances.
FitzGerald’s Thomasheen Sean Rua (a mouthful that rolls off the tongue) is delightfully evil. The serpent tempting a greedy Eve. A rat with a bit of cheese. Off stage, FitzGerald is a beautiful human being, but you’ll want to smack Thomasheen Sean Rua with a shovel and bury him in the bog.
The set is a dilapidated Irish cottage, masterfully designed by Johnmichael Bohach, and excellently complemented by Keith Truax’s moody lighting.
While “Sive” isn’t as moody, lyrical or as moving as “Sharon’s Grave,” it is a quintessentially Irish play from Pittsburgh’s quintessentially Irish theater company, and a fine cap to a fantastic season.
Grab a Guinness and get to the theater.
“Sive” runs till May 20, 2017 at the Union Project, 801 N. Negley Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15206. For more information, click here.