Presented by Tír Na Productions
By Bernard McMullan
Directed by Carmel O’Reilly
Review by Travis Manni
(Somerville, MA) I’ve never been to Ireland, or been cultured into any traditional Irish customs, despite the high percentage of ancestry that I maintain. However, by the end of Tír Na’s production of Return of the Winemaker, it was pretty clear that the best kind of Christmas is an Irish one.
After being raised in the small village of Ballygoura, County Galway, Jesus (Derry Woodhouse), who was birthed in a bar for his second coming, is being called back home to heaven because of God’s (Stephen Russell) declining mental health. However, his earthly father, Paddy Joyce (Colin Hamell), has been using the heavenly savior’s ability to turn water into wine has the core of his business model—to much financial success. Unwilling to bow to God’s wishes, Paddy demands that He and His Wife, Marilyn (Nancy E. Carroll), reconsider reclaiming Jesus to the afterlife forever.
What makes Return of the Winemaker so entertaining is how unashamed it is in its sacrilege, which is captured with a great sense of Irish humor; just the right tone of outrageousness to tell the story of Jesus’ return to earth. Aside from the hilarious blasphemy of Jesus working as a winemaker, the show also features an Elvis-esque God, clad in cliché Elvis garb and playing folk songs on his guitar. The music provides a great segue in between scenes and is guaranteed to gets everybody in the audience clapping their hands by the end of the show, whether they like it or not.
It was also apparent that this story isn’t being told to make fun of Irish people. Poor taste though it may seem to many a Catholic American, this show celebrates authentic Irish culture and family. With everything from bags of Tayto’s, an Irish crisp, to curses flung around as rapidly as heels in a river dance, to a pure, unbridled love of alcohol, this show has it all.
While the entire cast was fantastic—their timing just right for every punch line and singing a melodic, blissful nostalgia—Nancy E. Carroll, who was the only performer playing multiple characters (and she played three, often multiple in one scene), deserves a shout out. As the Heavenly Mother Marilyn, she was loving and nurturing, yet always in charge. As mom Peggy on earth, she was protective and affectionate, a perfect portrayal of the heartbreak involved with being a mom. And as the drunken, and slightly horny, nun (yes, you read that right), Sister Maura, she was equally committed and a feckin’ riot.
There’s nothing like a good dose of Christmas spirit, family, and religious blasphemy to warm even the coldest of hearts to the holiday season. If you have a chance, and aren’t easily offended, go see Return of the Winemaker. You’ll laugh, you’ll clap, you might cry, but either way, you’ll definitely wish you were in Ireland for Christmas.
Return of the Winemaker runs for 1 hour, 45 minutes with one intermission. To purchase tickets, click here.
We have elected a tangerine ass-bugle bigot with scrawny hands, thin skin, and terrible hair to the office of the President. The theatre community has every reason to be scared that the national budget for the arts will be slashed. It will be. Certain republicans tend to disrespect experimental, avant-garde, or simply new art. If it challenges the white, straight, hetero status quo, they tend to be against it. New things frighten them with their difference. Belts will need to be tightened. For the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating your art despite this painful bullshit. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. Please keep fighting the good fight. – KD
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