Pentecost | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Pentecost, Irish Repertory, at Victory Gardens Theater. By the time I got to Belfast, in 1989, all anybody seemed to want was more tourism. Sure, the people I met were torn up over the ongoing "troubles"--harshly evident in the flak-jacketed constabulary, the British tanks on Grosvenor Road--but more than that they were exhausted. The UK was promising big money toward an economic revival, and most folks, Protestant or Catholic, seemed ready to grab it.

Stewart Parker's Pentecost takes place a full 15 years earlier, during the upheaval of the Ulster Workers' Council strike, when Protestants shut down the north--gas, lights, everything--in defiance of the crown's plan to give Dublin a role in governing Ulster. Though the time and circumstances are different, the mood's the same: everybody's torn up and exhausted. Exhaustion, in fact, is what brings Parker's four young characters together: one by one they've collected in a shoddy Belfast cottage seeking shelter from the storm.

There's a play here. Despite Parker's diagrammatic approach to character development and his sometimes unfortunate willingness to wax poetic, one senses a passionate exploration of the psychic, social, cultural, and spiritual damage done. In there. Somewhere. But this production is far too flat-footed to go exploring with Parker--or even to give us a decent sense of what's going on. Exchanges that clearly should be sharp come out feeling puffy, positions that ought to be deeply held seem gratuitous. And Pat Hofmann's long bouts of staring just don't work.

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