Max Berry, Contributing Critic - New York City
Written by Penny Jackson and taking place in the Dublin Rose Irish Bar in Richmond Hills, Queens, “The Battles of Richmond Hills” tells the story of Sheila O’Connor, the O’Conner family and the “battles” they face every day, such as loss, substance abuse, addiction, and the inability to let go. It’s a story about family and what keeps it together as well as what tears it apart and how long one can keep grasping at the past before it slips between their fingers.
Jackson’s powerful script leaves no character in the background, from the bar tender to Sheila O’Connor, everyone gets their moment to shine. Though, undoubtedly it is Sheila’s story and we as the audience watch with hope and dread as she struggles to keep the remaining pieces of her life together. Dealing with the possible return of her drug addicted daughter, the loss of her husband, and the advances of a new romantic partner, all the while refusing to let her grandson put her in a retirement home, opting instead for the bar where she and her family have shared so many memories. It’s a lot to take on in one ninety-minute show and still give justice to the other characters on stage, yet “The Battles of Richmond Hills” does, and does it well. Though, it helps that Sheila O’Connor was played brilliantly by Nora Chester, filling her performance with heart, stubbornness, and humor. The performances all around were very well done. All of the actors working off of each other wonderfully to create a truly emotional piece of theatre.
The use of memory in this play was particularly effective. Rather than cut to a flashback scene, the memory would often be woven so seamlessly into the story that we might not have realized it was a memory if it weren’t for the lighting change. Prompted by a single word or song, these scenes felt like real memories and we watched helplessly as the characters re-watched what they couldn’t change.
“The Battles of Richmond Hills” is a wonderful play with top notch performances and a story that will have you laughing one minute and bawling like a baby the next (I know I was). The relationships all feel as real as any family and it makes us long for everything to work out. Penny Jackson manages to create a story that anyone can connect to. One that I look forward to seeing more of in the future.
“The Battles of Richmond Hills” was written by Penny Jackson and directed by Kathy Gail MacGowan.
It features: Nora Chester, Kevin, Gilmartin, Mac Brydon, Jordan Ahnquist, Alan Safier, and Lindsay Ryan.
Scenic Design by David Goldstein
Lighting Design by Kia Rodgers
Costume Design by Debbi Hobson
Sound Design by Jacob Subotnick
Props design/ASM: Eric Schnitzer
Stage Manager: Hanako Rodriguez
Fight Director: Judi Lewis Ockler
Dialect Coaching by Page Clements
It runs April 26th-May 11th at HERE (145 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10013)