Ourselves Alone | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Ourselves Alone

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OURSELVES ALONE, Ulysses Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Threatening the fragile peace accord, the IRA has refused to surrender its weapons. But the gunmen aren't the only story in Northern Ireland. Anne Devlin's Ourselves Alone, first produced here in 1988 in a memorable Bailiwick Repertory staging, remains a deeply committed if highly prolix portrait of three Belfast women. Each loves a man whose true passion is political. Frieda McCoy is devoted to the abusive leader of the nonviolent Workers' Party. Her more radical sister Josie is dumped by an IRA captain, then falls for an Englishman who pretends to serve the Republican cause. Asthmatic Donna, burdened with a baby, falls victim to Liam, Frieda and Josie's terrorist brother.

Though Devlin gives each woman an agonizing moment of futile protest, Jennifer Byers's too deliberate staging doesn't make their suffering matter. Succumbing to the relentless exposition of a static script and trapped on a clumsy set, the actors lose momentum--and the last thing this script needs is a staging that shows how little happens in it. The most moving moments come from Laurie Riffe's ardent Josie, sick with the desire to love something that won't die. Kaydee Kersten brings comic dash to frustrated Frieda, while Susan Ferrara's maternal Donna betrays the weight of unprocessed pain. The men, especially Patrick Rybarczyk's radical and Trey Maclin's English convert, seem too nice for their brutal roles.

--Lawrence Bommer

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