Anjelica Huston and The Culture Project
in association with "That’s Us" Productions
Written and Performed by GERALDINE HUGHES
The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St., NYC
January 20 - April 24, 2005
Contributing Director CAROL KANE
Set and Lighting Designer JONATHAN CHRISTMAN
Sound Designer JONATHAN SNIPES
Production Stage Manager ARON DEYO
Press Representative OPR/ORIGLIO PUBLIC RELATIONS
Yet another solo performance piece has entered the New York theater scene. BELFAST BLUES may be about Geraldine Hughes’ youth in an Ireland immersed in war and the peculiar violence of religious conflict, but her experiences resonate in an era when the U.S.A. remains under varying levels of terror alerts, and when our own foreign conflicts are as tangible as the most recent casualty count.
In terms of life experience, Ms. Hughes’ perspectives and observations may not be significantly different from her peers, save for the fact that a young Geraldine spent a brief time in Hollywood to be in an American film. Her story could be absolutely cookie cutter given her background. What makes BELFAST BLUES vital theater regardless is the timeliness and particularly gifted storytelling skills possessed by our guide.
Geraldine Hughes brings us into her childhood through recollections and reenactments. In the course of BELFAST BLUES she portrays everyone from her younger self and her parents to neighbors, teachers, friends and strangers. Her impressive ability to shift between characters brings her story to life, and makes us care about the people we meet. They make us care about her, and in turn, to connect with the society that her story represents.
What works well about BELFAST BLUES is the utter simplicity of the production. Ms. Hughes’ performance is not showy or full of flourish. She merely tells "one wee girl’s story about family, war, Jesus, and Hollywood" with direction and purpose. She is aided by equally minimalist set, lighting and sound designs. A stone wall accented by barbed wire serves as the core of the set and also as a projection field for images out of Ms. Hughes’ own childhood. The lighting draws our attention to the performer, and the sound reminds us of the dichotomy of the situation, as it is punctuated both by moments of song and by moments of gunfire. Carol Kane is credited as being the contributing director (Charles Haid directed the original production), and keeps the action moving.
Overall, BELFAST BLUES is an engrossing production. Set in the 1970’s and 1980’s, it is by no means dated. Sadly, it reminds us not only of how little has changed, but of how often and how violently history repeats itself, exposing new generations of children to warfare with each passing year. If Geraldine Hughes is any example, however, we are also left with the realization that the human spirit can persevere, inspiring us to achieve greatness regardless of where we have come from.
- Kessa De Santis -