Photos by Emily Hewitt Photography
I know Richmond Hill well. An enclave of Queens, New York, it is built on bedrock, remnants of a glacier, and a Revolutionary War battle. The battles for land, freedom and ourselves. The Battles of Richmond Hill invites us to a sliver of that at a local watering hole called the Dublin Rose (based on the Little Brown Jug). Set avenue-style (with the audience on the sidelines), director Kathy Gail MacGowan and scenic designer David Goldstein offer us an experience: to enjoy a libation while we eavesdrop on the drama unfolding.
On today’s episode, the story of the O’Connor family is told by their matriarch, Sheila O’Connor, captivatingly portrayed by Nora Chester. Her intimate world is fueled by Alzheimer’s, alcoholism and addiction. Her companions of late are her suitor, Alexi Negretsky (played passionately by Alan Safier), a former professor, as well as Sean Maguire (engagingly played by Mac Brydon), a soon-to-be professor who is the barkeep of the bar. As Christmas approaches and the snow falls outside the bar, the evening shifts from a playful and hopeful start of the holidays to a vodka-fueled explosion of memories and deep wounds.
Penny Jackson has told a universal story in 90 minutes in which anyone can identify. It’s moves swiftly, brings out the emotional, makes you laugh, and makes you love. The brilliantly talented cast is rounded out by Kevin Gilmartin as the loving and spirited patriarch, Frank O’Connor; Jordan Ahnquist as the loyal and protective grandson, Brian; and Lindsay Ryan as her daughter, Mary who skillfully shows how the joy and innocence one brings to themselves and others can fade away by a dark choice.
Running through May 11th at HERE Arts Center
145 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10013