Savanna Rae celebrates the badass women of Irish folklore in Daughters of Ire | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Savanna Rae celebrates the badass women of Irish folklore in Daughters of Ire

Sadly, she's not up to releasing the power of her material in this one-woman show.

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The titular daughters of Savanna Rae's one-woman show—Scathach, Uathach, Deirdre, and Queen Medb—all appear in the Ulster Cycle, a collection of wild, violent, sexy, fascinating folktales set in a decidedly pagan Ireland that were transmitted orally for generations before they were written down—and modified—by medieval monks. Set during the reign of a capricious, hotheaded King Conchobar mac Nessa (circa the first century CE), the tales describe an intensely tribal warrior culture in which heroes—of which Cú Chulainn is the best known—clash constantly over land, livestock, and honor.

It is not hard to see why Rae, who wrote as well as stars in this show, now at Open Door Theater, was attracted to the material. All of the women in the tales are strong, bold, interesting, full-blooded characters. Scathach, for example, is a warrior so adept at martial arts that the great Cú Chulainn comes to her to learn from her. And Queen Medb, known for her self-possession, beauty, and sexual prowess, seems very modern indeed.

Sadly, Rae isn't equal to the task of releasing the full power in this material as either a writer or performer. She can't decide whether she's telling us a series of ripping yarns or presenting, to quote her press materials, an "incisive feminist political and cultural analysis." Instead, she tries to do both and, as a result, does neither very well. She's also limited as a performer: all of the women look and sound the same. At 80 minutes the show feels too long.   v

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