Review: "Inside Danny’s Box" at the Origin Theatre’s First Irish Festival

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  • Katherine Hebert, Contributing Critic - New York

“Inside Danny’s Box” is the latest piece to be mounted as part of Origin Theatre’s First Irish Festival. In this Irish black comedy Derek Murphy crafts a world leaden with sacrilege, adultery and love all hidden behind the guise of feigned hospitality in a small Irish neighborhood where nothing is as it seems. We follow a priest Father Francis (Ken Forman) as he navigates his way through a sea of familiar faces in the days leading up to his mission in Africa. He comes across Danny a young man who confides his love for his neighbor Marybeth to his mother and a small wooden box and things only get stranger from there.

“Inside Danny’s Box” ‘s humor primarily derives from the ritualistic practices of neighborly goodness and Christian values. However, in the final twenty minutes the audience is treated to a while formulaic very affective reveal that is sure to leave the audience stunned and in stiches.  This is largely due to both Murphy’s writing and a stellar cast. Murphy’s writing is quick, funny, occasionally broad, but never insincere. Amidst the love affairs in confessionals, and swordfights with crucifixes and shovels we are still treated to an intimate tale about the complexities of love in the face of pre-existing commitments. This combined with grand visual metaphors that aid the piece thematically and you are left with something truly unique.

Complimenting Murphy’s writing is Lisa Milinazzo’s fast-paced and tactful direction, which makes use of the entire space. There are moments in the play where actor’s weave in, out, above and around the audience. Milinazzo is clearly not afraid to make her audience lean forward or even turn around in their seats. And while this does create some site line issues one would think that this is intentional as no information is lost.  Not to mention that this choice does wonders for the soundscape as well as immerses the audience further into the world Murphy has created.  

The piece is then rounded out by a stellar cast, there is genuinely not a weak link to be found amongst them. Lead by Maria Deasy as Miss Hubble who  takes what could have easily been a broad archetypal, over-protective mother instead opted for a more grounded approach which helps anchor the piece in reality. Countering this is Ken Forman as Father Francis who takes a calculating, manipulative catholic priest and makes him strangely endearing. Francis is easily the driving force of the comedy in this piece acting as both the straight man and the punchline depending on the circumstances provided and Forman is more than up for the challenge.  While Daniel Redfern Holme’s take on John makes him both sympathetic and very disillusioned depending on where the audience chooses to align themselves. Aoife Williamson gives a transformative take on John’s girlfriend Marybeth going from a literal girl next door to a passionate dimensional young woman with a fire fixation at the drop of a hat. But at the heart of this piece is the titular character Danny Hubble played by Shane Mcnaughton who gives a quiet sincerity to our protagonist. Additionally Mcnaughton and Williamson have a palpable chemistry. And Mcnaughton has the where withal to take what could have easily been an off putting stalkerish love  story and brings to it genuine heart. To summarize “Inside Danny’s Box” is a play about deeply flawed people that are all redeemable. It is funny and honest and not one to miss.

Catch it at the cell on:

Jan  14,16,18,22,24 at 9pm

Jan 15,17,23,25 at  6.30pm

Jan 20,27 at  7pm