Ed Malone’s hyperkinetic shows have garnered glowing reviews in his native Ireland. But rather than the multiple character study suggested by the title of his current production—now playing in New York City at the Singers Forum through Aug. 26 and then moving to Stage Left Studio Theatre—we’re given a frightful shouting match.
In this autobiographical piece, Mr. Malone (or his younger self, anyway) seems angry at everyone. Neither his mother, his aunts, his dead male relatives, nor anyone else escapes his wrath, which remains, alas for the audience, unexplained. The sound and fury with which he embodies these unrelievedly ugly caricactures therefore fails to add up to a powerful performance. They are characters in search of character.
Most problematic, the three widows at the center of the story have few distinguishable traits aside from mockingly exaggerated physical cues. All “lived for their husbands” and “lived to cook.” Once widowed, all are randy and unlikeable. The husbands they lose (mostly to cancer, at which Mr. Malone is also extremely angry) are a bit more distinct, treating their wives differently (cruelly, obsequiously), but they’re all as insensitive and superficially drawn as their wives.
If this were funny, it all might be acceptable. Perhaps it’s a nationality thing, but aside from one or two slight chuckles, whatever humor the piece possesses doesn’t seem to translate. Or, if there were a focused story that offered a reason for all the yelling, the bitter tone might be compelling in a squirmy sort of way. But with no character development to delineate, all Mr. Malone can give us are disconnected episodes: the widows shop, travel, get haircuts, and experience a few international romantic adventures characterized mostly by bawdy sex. They’re like R. Crumb characters taken to the Nth degree of ugliness and stripped of pathos—presented to us, not warts and all, but just warts.