Arts preview: 'The Plough and the Stars'

Jim Fischer
Ian-Lloyd Anderson, Lloyd Cooney and Liam Heslin in Abbey Theatre's production of "The Plough and the Stars."

A hundred years is a long time, and it isn't. The social climate in Ireland has changed, and it hasn't. Sean O'Casey's magnificent "The Plough and the Stars" is about the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, and it isn't.

CAPA and the Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences host the Abbey Theatre production of "The Plough and the Stars," a quintessentially Irish play by a quintessentially Irish playwright, staged by Ireland's national theater and marking the centennial of the events that move the play's characters.

"As part of the Irish canon, the play will always hold relevance. There are wounds that are still open," said Ian-Lloyd Anderson, who plays Jack Clitheroe, a nationalist who joins the fight against British rule in Ireland. "But with this production, we don't play up the Irish-ness. It stays in touch with its original setting, but a lot of the moral issues in the play exist all over the world."

"The Plough and the Stars" is O'Casey's look inside a Dublin tenement and the motivations of the mostly nationalist Catholics and mostly unionist Protestants who lived there. Larger political movements shape their daily lives, but O'Casey frames the play around how these people are impacted by and react to those movements, rather than how those movements are impacted by the actions of these characters.

"These are human stories being told," said Hilda Fay, who plays Bessie Burgess, a unionist whose son is fighting for the British. "It's about the struggles of people and how they come out the other side."

"The story is about people," Anderson said. "It's not difficult to identify with [Jack], even though I've never been a soldier. But as a proud Dublin man, I can understand how important it is that [Jack] makes the decision to leave his family to do what he thinks is best. I have an 8-week-old daughter who I've seen for only 12 days, and now I'm in North America. So I call upon that to help me understand."

"I'm a fifth generation Dublin woman, my family comes from the tenements, and the play highlights the poor living conditions there," Fay said. "It's a shame in some ways to say, but my life now, sometimes it feels like we never had 'the troubles.' My generation is separate from that. But I can see the homelessness in the streets, so you still wonder, 'Have we moved on?'"

Yet Fay finds hope in Bessie, who, while sharing different political and religious beliefs from her neighbors, still finds common ground.

"It's hard for her living in the tenements among Catholics," Fay said. "She's always fighting with everybody. But when one of her neighbors is in trouble from the other side of the political fence, she gives them help."

Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Southern Theatre

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28

and 29; 2 p.m. Sunday,

Oct. 30

21 E. Main St., Downtown