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A Couple of Blaguards



Plenty of Irish writers, from James Joyce to Brendan Behan, have turned their miserable childhoods into great literature--or at least popular prose. But few have succeeded so well as the McCourt brothers, Frank and Malachy, who've told and retold the same stories in many different media. Malachy was the first to become a celebrity of sorts, delivering his funny autobiographical reminiscences on the Jack Parr, Dick Cavett, and Merv Griffin shows in the 60s and 70s. At the same time Frank was using the same stories to spice up his lectures as a high school English teacher. Then, in 1984, the brothers packaged their comic tales in a two-man touring show, A Couple of Blaguards, that also included Irish singing and some ancient vaudeville jokes. In the 90s the two managed to spin three memoirs out of the material: Frank's sublime Angela's Ashes, his not-quite-as-sublime sequel, 'Tis, and Malachy's merely passable A Monk Swimming. Anyone who's read any of these books, listened to them on tape, or seen the 1999 movie Angela's Ashes will recognize the people in A Couple of Blaguards--the alcoholic father, the cruel teachers, the feckless priests, and all the other mad, foolish, neurotic, or stupid Irish men and women the brothers have known. Still, the stories are fabulous, funny and finely written--why do you think they've survived so many retellings? Howard Platt and Mickey Kelly, who play the McCourt brothers in this revival, deliver their lines with the gusto of men who truly love them. And Kelly does a dead-on impersonation of Frank, right down to the way he lowers his voice to deliver his cruel but funny observations about his people and their queer ways. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 Campbell, Arlington Heights, 847-577-2121. Through September 29: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $25.

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