Reviewed – 17th May 2021
“moves like a large truck—slow to get going, but once on the move—impossible to stop”
Cameron Corcoran’s Stags, presented by Off Main Stage Productions at the Network Theatre, Waterloo, is an intense, gritty drama exploring all the unfinished business between a dead father and his two sons. Younger son Tony (Blake Kubena) returns home to find his father (Da, played by Tim Molyneux) dead in an armchair and surrounded by broken furniture. Tony’s older brother Conn (James Finnegan), just released from prison, is nowhere in sight.
In sixty minutes, Stags covers familiar territory made famous in the dramas of American playwrights Arthur Miller and Sam Shepard, but Corcoran gives it a decidedly Irish twist by setting the play in Dublin. Stags is a pressure cooker play, always hovering on the edge of violence, no matter how much civility smart blue suit Tony attempts to bring back to the wreckage he left behind. For starters, he’s still renting space in his memories to the abuse he suffered from his father and brother, and possibly his mother as well. The first half of Stags deals with all that as Tony confronts his father’s corpse in a memory play. The two rekindle, in bitter recriminations, the wary circling around that characterized their relationship when Da was alive. But Da is dead and confined to his armchair, so the resentments on both sides simmer along without resolution until the second half when Conn returns home. By now we know enough about Conn (and the way Da has nurtured violence in the home) to know it is only a matter of time before the brothers come to blows.
Playwright Corcoran handles this material with confidence. Stags moves like a large truck—slow to get going, but once on the move—impossible to stop. It smashes everything in its path. The play is a great piece for actors, and it gives Molyneux, Finnegan and Kubena plenty to do. Molyneux is particularly impressive, since he has to work from that armchair. Finnegan deftly handles the promise of violence fulfilled as Conn goads his younger brother into shedding his veneer of education and civility. Kubena holds the play together with a difficult role that requires him to shift between playing nice and exploding into nasty. Director Naomi Wirthner uses the space economically, and well. This is a bare bones production that focuses on the acting, and rightly so.
If you have a taste for this kind of drama, you’ll find Stags well worth your time. The Network Theatre space can be a challenge to find, but keep searching even if the location seems unlikely. The space, and this play, are well suited to one another.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Network Theatre until 22nd May
Reviewed this year by Dominica: