Review: Be Irish for a night at 'Flanagan's Wake'

04:22 PM, Mar 15, 2013


Written By Leah Stacy

If you go

What: Flanagan’s Wake.
When: Through March 24.
Where: Downstairs Cabaret Theatre, 20 Windsor St.
Cost: $29 to $33.
For tickets: (585) 325-4370 or go to downstairscabaret.org.

Though it’s not practiced as it once was on the Emerald Isle, the Irish wake has been Americanized in Hollywood films and TV shows as the last chance for family and friends to take shots of whiskey or have a pint of Guinness with the deceased.

The same goes for the loved ones of Flanagan during Flanagan’s Wake, which runs through March 24 at Downstairs Cabaret Theatre’s Windsor Street location.

And yes, the Guinness onstage is real.

The interactive comedy-musical extravaganza follows grieving citizens from the wee fictional town of Grapplin, Ireland: from Flanagan’s mother and the town’s redheaded loon, Kathleen Mooney, to the town’s mayor/bartender, Martin O’Doul.

Before the audience is even seated, the simple villagers bestow respectable Irish names upon them — Mary for the gals, Patrick for the guys — so they can call upon each audience member at will (and they do).

It’s a basic set — a wooden coffin and piano onstage to accompany the few musical numbers that arise — and the cast of seven actors carries the show on their backs, as the improvisational script is only loosely set. The rest, of course, depends on the night’s audience. As each character shares a story from Flanagan’s life, audience volunteers are asked to supply key phrases and words.

Even without help from those seated offstage each night, the cast is impressive. They’re fearless in the face of terrible luck with the crowd, poor rhyming skills during improvisational songs and bad comedic timing.

Artistic Director Richard St. George also appears in the cast as Father Damon Fitzgerald, touting the hilarious Book of Kevin and keeping a tight rein on a script that could easily wander away from careless actors. Kate McLean, who plays Flanagan’s heartbroken fiancée, Fiona Finn, has professional training as an actor and voiceover artist. She’s completely comfortable providing the sexier content and doesn’t hesitate to tell the audience, “Deal with it, it’s that kind of show.”

Liam Scahill, who has performed at DCT and throughout the United States, plays Flanagan’s best man and drinking buddy. If his character’s mischievous nature isn’t charming enough, he adds a dimpled smile to woo various audience members onstage (even if he can’t find words to rhyme with orange and silver). The cast has a strong showing from The College at Brockport — Dan Dixon (who plays Mickey Finn) and Scahill are both graduates, while St. George is a faculty member — which suggests there must be a little improv in the campus air.

Even as Flanagan’s Wake changes night by night, the standard tongue-in-cheek jokes about Irish ambition (an ironic statement, perhaps), Irish drinking and Irish Catholics will land somewhere in the improvisation.

This is definitely a show where you can have fun, and everyone can be Irish for the night.