The only all-Irish theater festival in the world kicked off in September across nine stages in New York. Now in its eighth year, the 2015 Origin Theater Company’s 1st Irish Festival, founded by Origin’s artistic director, George C. Heslin, features nine productions from Belfast, Dublin, Limerick, and New York, including four U.S. premieres, three world premieres, and two special, limited-run performances.
Highlights of the festival included two of Ireland’s best-known comic performers. Pat Shortt, who won rave reviews last season for his role in the Broadway staging of The Cripple of Inishmaan, starred in his new play, Selfie, about a singing undertaker who lifts the veil, so to speak, of the oft-stereotyped Irish funeral. And Des Bishop performed an encore run of “Made in China,” which traces his two-year attempt to become fluent in Mandarin and establish a stand-up comedy scene in Beijing.
Other plays in competition include Genevieve Hulme-Beaman’s solo “Pondling,” winner of the 2014 Stewart Parker Award for Best Debut Play, about the perils of teenage love and lust; Myles Breen’s subversive “Language Unbecoming a Lady,” which explores themes of identity as it traces one gay man’s journey of self-discovery; and the world premiere of “Stoopdreamer,” a distinctly American story by Pat Fenton of one stalwart Irish-American Brooklyn neighborhood’s attempt to maintain its identity in the face of 20th-century eminent domain policy and changing demographics. ♦