Off-Broadway Review: “Crackskull Row” at Irish Rep Theatre

David Roberts

OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

Legend has it that on May Eve all sorts of sorcery abounds in the country sides of Ireland. That is certainly the case on Crackskull Road somewhere in Dublin 2 on the April 30 in question in Honor Molloy’s delightful psychological thriller “Crackskull Road” currently playing at Irish Rep Theatre. For eighty riveting minutes, the complex Morrigan family system splays out on the compact stage of the W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre. Playwright Honor Molloy spins a tale of intrigue and madness as she exposes the underbelly of a complex dysfunctional family. This tale defies any standard definitions or understandings of the veil between “then and now” or between “the living and the dead.”

All the audience sees and hears is in fact only “in the skulls” of Masher (played with conniving desperation by Terry Donnelly) and her son Rasher (played with repressed disfigurement by Colin Lane) who appear together as adults in “real time” at the end of the play. And as those skulls are cracked open (in the now and the then) and the contents revealed, the audience “sees” Masher when she was the young Dolly (played with the despair of unwitting decadence by Gina Costigan), Rasher when he was the Young Rash (played with a naiveté born of the burden of secrecy by John Charles McLaughlin), and those fickle sprites that appear on May Eve 1999: Wee Dolly (also played by Ms. Costigan) and the shoeless ESB Boy (also played by Mr. McLaughlin) who also demands Masher fess up about what really happened throughout “the years of misfortunality.”

“Crackskull Row” begins with Rasher addressing the audience from prison (how he got there would require a spoiler alert) and Masher “hagged out on a broken-down couch” in her house strewn with bits of detritus. Down the chimney and out of time comes the New Age Sprite Wee Dolly whose purpose seems to challenge Masher to clean up the present by dealing with her past. That past is played out brilliantly by the engaging cast who give their multiple characters (Mr. Lane also plays Rasher’s father Basher) and their multifarious conflicts authenticity and believability. Time and space are warped again and again as the audience learns of the relationship between Masher and her son Rasher – a relationship driven by the loveless and sometimes abusive relationship between Masher and Rasher’s father Basher.

And since, as Masher tells the ESB Boy, her mind is “cabbage,” one is not ever certain what is reality and what might be illusion, delusion, or perhaps transmigration. If this sounds complicated, it is somewhat but only because to say more would be to spoil the intricacies of revelation extant in Ms. Molloy’s impressive and important script. It can be revealed that at one point in the play all the characters appear on stage at the same time transcending the confines of mortality and time. Under Kira Simring’s direction, “Crackskull Row” is as good as it gets and it does not get better than this.

Daniel Geggatt’s psychologically cramped set assures the audience it has followed Alice down the rabbit hole. Siena Zoe Allen’s costumes reverberate with timelessness and depravity. Gertjan Houben’s moody lighting adds to the deep levels of mystery as does M. Florian Staab’s extraordinary original music and sound.  “Crackskull Row” is not to be missed. Just leave propriety and apprehension behind and worry not about feeling ten feet tall.


“Crackskull Row” stars Gina Costigan, Terry Donnelly, Colin Lane, and John Charles McLaughlin.

The production features lighting design by Gertjan Houben, set design by Daniel Geggatt and Caitlyn Murphy, costume design by Sienna Zoë Allen, and original music and sound design by M. Florian Staab. Chris Steckel serves as Production Stage Manager. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.

“Crackskull Row” runs at Irish Rep Theatre (132 West 22nd Street) in the W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre through March 19, 2017 on the following schedule: Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Thursday at 7:00 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $50.00 and be purchased by calling 212-727-2737 or by visiting Running time is 80 minutes without an intermission.