The Dude Does Not Abide: “Return of the Winemaker”

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Presented by Tir Na Productions
Written by Bernard McMullan
Directed by Carmel O’Reilly

Dec. 2 – 20, 2015
Davis Square Theater
Somerville, MA
Tir Na Theatre on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

Return of the Winemaker: An Irish Christmas Comedy  takes the piss out of two beloved institutions: Ireland and Christmas. It is not for the artistically insistent or the prudishly religious. In it, God sends his only begotten son to Ireland, of all places, to try again.

It is 1975 and Paddy Joyce (Colin Hamell) hand delivers the sweet baby Jesus from a strange woman onto the bar of his pub. It is up to Paddy and his wife Peggy (Nancy E. Carroll) to raise Jesus in the ways of the Irish. Amidst the requisite bread and wine miracles, Jesus (Derry Woodhouse) learns new ways to shepherd his flock unto The Lord (Stephen Russell). Ways that God most certainly never anticipated.

I practically pulled a muscle laughing at this one. McCullen has written a cheeky script that disrespects just about every sacred aspect of God’s only son while still leaving room for actual joy. The plot doesn’t take any unexpected turns. The dialogue lacks all refinement. Yet, Winemaker is very funny. It’s a necessary, earthy break for those of us weary of holiday severity and pomp.  

The cast is helmed by Woodhouse who plays the gentle, “touched” Jesus. He’s the village idiot that the populace can’t help but love despite his many, many inadequacies. Hamell is the patriarch that we love to hate. Russell strums a mean ditty as the dementia suffering Lord God. Bless you Sara Frasier for taking one for the proverbial team and “mounting up.”  

It’s Nancy E. Carroll who wins the night. Her dual performances as Peggy, and holy Momma Marilyn are worth the price of admission alone. Carroll sashays between the two roles with pizazz.  Her performance as drunken Sister Maura is downright sacrilicious. She’s a good sport and a damn good time to watch.

It is important to note that this production is satire. It is intended to be offensively insulting for the laughs. (There’s good reason why intermission is 20 minutes long and the line to the bar is out the door.) The set and costumes are barebones. It’s like a holiday themed, B-movie version of The Big Lebowski if set in Ballygoura.

Ticket holders should not expect delightful Christmas or Celtic carols appropriating Ireland’s heritage of fae, whiskey, and accents. Santa doesn’t make an appearance but God does… Swinging a guitar and wearing an Elvis-style jumpsuit. Do not bring your kids. Do bring their grandparents. The vintage bro humor of this production will appeal to older generations with heaps of irreverence the Establishment. You have been warned.

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