"Luck of the Irish," a new play about race and real estate in the 1950s and today, is the latest offering from Lincoln Center's Theater program LCT3, dedicated to producing work of new theatre artists. Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.
"Luck of the Irish" is a smart and thorny new play about race and real estate, set in the 1950s and the present day.
From that one-line précis, it sounds like Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park from last year. But Kirsten Greenidge’s piece has a softer, subtler take on these subjects. She braids together potent themes of privilege, status and displacement that blur the color lines.
"Ghost-buying" is the historical practice that gives "Luck of the Irish" its premise. White proxies would buy properties for upwardly mobile black buyers, then sign the deed over and collect a fee for their trouble.
Half of Greenidge’s play takes place on the outskirts of Boston in the 1950s, as Lucy and Rex Taylor, played by Eisa Davis and Victor Williams, negotiate just such a deal with working-class Irish-Americans Joe and Patty Ann, played by Dashiell Eaves and Amanda Quaid.
These scenes alternate with ones in the early 2000s, when Lucy’s granddaughter, Hannah, Marsha Stephanie Blake, finds her already stressed-out life complicated by figurative ghosts of the past. The now-octogenarian and deeply resentful Patty Ann alleges that the house still legally belongs to her and Joe. A half-century has passed, but Hannah learns with shock, the title of her home may still be in question.
A fine ensemble and Rebecca Taichman’s cool, precise direction tease out threads of social anxiety, class envy and interracial attraction that enmesh these richly drawn characters. In a cast of excellent performers, Amanda Quaid is one standout as the bitter Patty Ann, and Marsha Stephanie Blake is warm and engaging as an uneasy suburbanite. No one, the play seems to imply, feels truly at home or in their social roles.
This is Greenidge’s second play in New York, and here’s hoping we see more. Smart, funny and empathetic dramas really enhance the neighborhood.