Palm Beach Dramaworks' "Dancing at Lughnasa" is so real it hurts
The play "Dancing at Lughnasa" draws you in Sensurround style, enveloping you so gently into its world that before you know it, you care ... much more than you could have ever imagined. The production from Palm Beach Dramaworks benefits from the combination of straightforward direction by J. Barry Lewis with taut and toned acting by a profoundly gifted cast. For a little more than two hours with a 15-minute intermission, the show sends you back to 1936, when five sisters eke out a living in bucolic Ireland (thanks to Jeff Modereger's well-balanced set). ...Love has also found its way to the cottage, at least for three of the sisters, and for a shiny moment, there is hope. But even that (along with an economic crisis) threatens to shatter the tight-knit family. No matter. As the narrator reveals in a spoiler alert: This is the last summer in which they will all be together. Isolated as the family is, the outside world comes in through intermittent broadcasts from a past-its-prime radio. And when the tension gets to be too much, and when there are no more words, the sisters dance in thrillingly staged moments that feel achingly real. This production keeps itself as sharp and bracing as a splash of well water. You'll find no warm fuzziness here, even though that dry, slightly sour Irish humor shows up in dashes. There isn't a whiff of "thea-tuh" anywhere - just clear and resolute characterization from a cast tuned to perfection and well supported by a creative team in choreography, lighting, costuming and sound design. After winning "Best Play" from both the Tony and Olivier Awards in 1991, "Dancing at Lughnasa" was made into a 1998 movie starring Meryl Streep.