It can be difficult to drag oneself out the door on a Monday evening to a night at the theatre. There's a reason why theatres are dark on Mondays. But I'm very glad I did some dragging last night. If I hadn't, I would have missed one of the highlights of the 1st Irish 2009 Theatre Festival, Mark Doherty's Trad.
Trad, shortened from traditional, is a term referring to music and an adherence to memories. Trad, the play, is a wonderful, humorous satire on Irish drama. It manages to both skew traditional themes of Irish theatre, and be a poignant part of it.
Trad's entertaining story portrays two old men in the present-day west of Ireland: Father (Charlie DelMarcelle, left) and Son (Mike Dees). Their ages are fabulous, in an Aesopian way. Thomas the son is 100 years old. His father, Joe, is obviously older, but who's counting when the years have piled on so? One day, Thomas just happens to mention that he fathered a son 70 years ago. Joe insists that they travel to find the last remaining successor in the family line. An absurd journey motif springs up around the pair's undertaking, although "journey" may be an ambitious term for a old man with one arm and an older man with one leg.
Taking a road they've rarely travelled out of their village, Joe tells Thomas stories that on the surface are funny, even silly. In the spirit of Flann O'Brien's An Beal Bocht (The Hungry Mouth), Joe spins the tale of the great Olive Crisis, the story of the day he moved a mountain because it blocked the sun, and the time they had no oxygen, reminiscent of O'Brien's protagonist who was so poor "there never was any air in his house." All these stories are unsubtle references to darker stories of Ireland's past poverty - bad stories of a hard life, but it never did anyone any good to "stand still and face backwards" as Joe says.
For all the humor, the stories are eventually useful for Thomas. The anecdotes are not merely a unique communication between father and son. Thomas is a stranger in his own strange land. He constantly asks to turn around, go back home, abandon the quest, which his centenarian-plus father will not let him do. In this way, albeit a tad late, the father is preparing the son for life. In a most traditional way.