A Lady is Waiting, subtly and intricately directed by the fine Laurence Lowry, is a tautly written play of revelation by Anto Nolan. Nolan unfolds his work and the characterization as if he were building a concrete bunker to entrap his audience. The play is solid and powerful in its logic as it develops line upon line, phrase upon phrase, emotion upon emotion, understatement upon statement.
If you remove one living moment, one jot of dialogue from A Lady is Waiting, the rationale of this wonderful storytelling enactment crumbles to bits, along with the clever characterization of Doris. For it is Doris’ life and history we become familiar with during one riveting hour during which the lady is waiting. It is one perfect hour that consummate performer Fiana Toibin has to draw us in to the unraveling of Doris, this unassuming, endearing wife and mother of two. Truly, the playwright, director, and solo performer have melded so completely they are able to bring us to a sacred place in this unforgettable production.
We are introduced to Doris (Fiana Toibin) as she enters from the audience area, walks to the bench, plops her traveling case to one side, sits on the other and looks out into the distance. About the same time, the bell tolls the hour and she begins conversing with her silent listeners who watch as she waits. After a brief and humorous discussion about Aunt Claire, her maiden aunt who raised her during Doris’ youthful summers and whose injunctions about men are delivered with irony and wit, we learn that someone is supposed to pick Doris up and he is late. After she tells us she has been married and has children, we think either it’s her husband or perhaps one of her grown sons who will come to take her back home or on an outing.
The homely discussion of marriage and family is innocent. We easily, securely identify, and Doris keeps us entertained with her sense of humor and descriptions of how she met and fell in love, stayed home to raise her family, and advanced in economic well-being. But the seeds have been secretly sown and the weeds are rapidly growing. Dare we go back to discover where the playwright has turned his field into one that is unkempt and unruly? Certainly, we have been led away from the path of familiarity to one that is overgrown and rocky.
Near the end of our journey into Doris’ world, blinded by our own self-indulgence, by the need to laugh at Doris’ situation, and by the omission of details in order to entertain us, we’ve been led by the playwright and brilliant performer to unfamiliar terrain. We find ourselves on a steep climb up a dangerous mountain and the clouds and fog have engulfed us. We must trust the guide, but can we? Doris leaves us hanging by a single thread of truth and we learn where she is and who she is waiting for.
By the end of the magnificent slowly evolving revelation that Doris illuminates, we have journeyed a lifetime. As the bell tolls for us, it has only been an hour that this lady has been waiting, but it feels like we’ve been through a war and have come through with PTSD.
A Lady is Waiting was part of Origin’s 1st Irish 2013. It was presented by Rafter’s Road Theatre Company and LAF Theatre Company at THE CELL on West 23rd Street.