November onstage

Spotlighting powerful dramas

Poster by Michael Gelen



Sive, by John B. Keane

Director: Vincent O’Neill

Cast: Josephine Hogan, Patrick Moltane, Aleks Malejs,

Kiana Duggan-Haas, Ray Boucher, Peter Raimondo,

David Lundy, Gerry Maher, Johnny Barden

at Irish Classical Theatre Company


Written in 1959, Sive “is a play about isolation and poverty and how an impoverished rural existence creates measures of desperation, and people take action that would otherwise be unthinkable,” previews ICTC artistic director Vincent O’Neill. “The main theme is about a couple of connivers who try to marry off a young girl to a very wealthy man. They stand to become very rich through this, but they are disturbing the basic laws of nature and that has a kick-on effect. There is a line, ‘There is a play to all things,’ which is a little like ‘a time for all seasons’ in the Bible. It has huge resonance, almost Shakespearean. All great tragedy has an inevitability to it.”


Sive is one of O’Neill’s favorites, which is why he has chosen to direct its ICTC debut himself.  “It’s a powerful play, perfectly structured, with wonderful characters, and a completely Irish ethos,” he says. “I love directing, but I particularly like directing Irish plays because I have a kinship with that culture. That’s where I grew up. I was nearly forty when I arrived on these shores, so I like to dip back in and see what I can bring to it.”


The company mission, which is to produce both modern and traditional Irish plays, has fallen more on the side of modern lately—think Conor McPherson and Martin McDonagh—and O’Neill felt it was time to dig back into the classical canon and do something the theater had never done. “Way back in fifty-nine, the Abbey turned the play down saying it was blasphemous because of the age of the girl; they thought it was too risqué,” says O’Neill. “Keane went ahead and took it to the local drama group, where it grew over time and now it’s a classic.


“Strangely enough, I’ve been working on Beauty Queen of Leenane at school, and the more I read Sive, I realize it’s a forerunner thematically in character and every other way,” he continues. “The language of Sive is very akin to Playboy of the Western World, highly poeticized play based more on Gaelic than English. In the lineage of traditional Irish drama, Sive comes after Playboy in language, but in theme and character before Beauty Queen.”


In keeping with ICTC’s preference to bring new faces to its stage, Sive welcomes Peter Raimondo and Johnny Barden, with Kiana Duggan-Haas in the title role. “I auditioned twelve women or girls for this role, two were seventeen, and the others all in their early twenties, but because the play was so much about the age gap, the girls in their twenties didn’t play that. I took a risk and went with the seventeen-year-old,” O’Neill says. “The questions she asked alone were satisfying and highly instinctive; she really understood the world of the play.”


Sive opens at Irish Classical Theatre on November 2 (, 853-380)




King Hedley II

by August Wilson at Paul Robeson Theatre



Thirty-six-year-old ex-con King is desperately trying to make $10,000 to open a video store by selling stolen refrigerators. Touching on many of the same themes that Wilson brings up in his other plays, King Hedley II explores what happens when black men feel worthless and black women feel forgotten.


King Hedley II is the ninth in August Wilson’s ten-play Century Cycle (also called the Pittsburgh Cycle, after their location), each of which takes place in a different decade. Set in the eighties, King Hedley II rewards those who know previous plays in the cycle because characters from those are referenced; the titular character, for example, is the son of Ruby and King Hedley from Seven Guitars (set in the forties). Ruby and neighbor Stool Pigeon reappear in this play, and Elmore—unseen in Seven Guitars—becomes flesh and blood.


This is the third Century Cycle play presented recently at Paul Robeson, with Jitney (set in the seventies) in 2016 and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (set in the twenties) in 2017—both excellent productions.


King Hedley II is often cited as Wilson’s most tragic play—and that’s saying something.


Buffalo’s Stephen McKinley Henderson is recognized as a veteran performer of Wilson’s plays. He received a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Bono in 2010 Broadway revival of Fences, then played the same role in the 2016 film. Also on Broadway, he appeared in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and King Hedley II, and he created the role of Turnbo in Jitney, and continued to the play the role through the show’s off-Broadway and London runs.


“‘Hedley seeks—and often finds—the heights of tragedy and mysticism in the life of the common man. Mind you, in the mid-1980s in the African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh known as The Hill, everyday life embraces assault, murder, robbery, broken families, and an enduring fear of homelessness that is as much spiritual as literal. As a Jeremiah-like character called Stool Pigeon (Stephen McKinley Henderson) proclaims: ‘The people wandering all over the place. They got lost. They don’t even know the story of how they got from tit to tat.’” – Ben Brantley, New York Times (after the 2001 Broadway opening)


King Hedley II, the third Paul Robeson Theatre presentation of plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle, begins November 9


Opening this month:

The long-awaited arrival of the touring production of Hamilton is November 20 at Shea’s Performing Arts center; the show runs through December 9.

Shea’s 710 presents the five-theater collaboration The Three Musketeers beginning November 1 (, 847-0850)

Sive opens at Irish Classical Theatre on November 2 (, 853-380)

Kavinoky presents A Doll’s House Part 2 beginning November 2 (, 829-7668)

King Hedley II, the third Paul Robeson Theatre presentation of plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle, begins November 9

My Three Angels begins at New Phoenix on November 16 (, 853-1334)

Beginning November 29, NUNCRACKERS: The NUNSENSE Christmas Musical is on stage at O’Connell and Company (, 848-0800)


Also playing (in order of closing):

Fiddler on the Roof takes its final bow at Shea’s on November 4 (, 847-0850)

Fool for Love closes at American Repertory Theatre of Western New York on November 17 (, 634-1102)

Road Less Traveled Productions closes Speed-the-Plow on November 18 (, 629-3069)


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Recommended Reads

  1. Game On / Death to the NCAA
    It’s time for this bloated bureaucracy to step aside
  2. The Review / Prescott’s Provisions
    Superb small plates in the Northtowns
  3. Home / March Edition
  4. Home / Providence Farm
    A doctor’s welcoming country home in East Aurora
  5. Road Trip / Toronto for families
    A midwinter trip that entertains and enlightens

Add your comment: