Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
GOD HATES THE IRISH: THE BALLAD OF ARMLESS JOHNNY
Written by SEAN CUNNINGHAM
Music by MICHAEL FRIEDMAN
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place NYC
March 23 – April 24, 2005
Directed by WILL FREARS
Choreography JIM AUGUSTINE
Scenic Design ROBIN VEST
Costume Design CAMILLE BENDA
Lighting Design MATT RICHARDS
Sound Design PHILLIP SCOTT PEGLOW
Stage Manager SASHA NYARY
Press Representation OPR/ORIGLIO PUBLIC RELATIONS
Lisa Altomare – Ma, Queen Bean, Dinknesh
Remy Auberjonois – Priest, Oliver Cromwell, American
Anne Bobby – Officer Victoria, Lady Brady, Special Forces, God
Anna Camp – Serving Wench, Feather, Fairy Godmother
James A. Stephens – Da, Lord Ford, Officer Russell
William Thompson – Armless Johnny
To call GOD HATES THE IRISH: THE BALLAD OF ARMLESS JOHNNY bawdy would be like saying that Michael Jackson has only had a little bit of work done on his face. Before you read on, I will tell you up front that those who find no possibility in finding humor in songs and situations about castration, well-endowed Catholic priests sexing women to death, cunnilingus and inbreeding need read no further, for Armless Johnny Kavanaugh encounters all of these things and more.
There is a plot amidst all of the visuals and vulgarities. Since, apparently, GOD HATES THE IRISH, young Johnny loses his parents after his one-armed Da, following tradition, hangs himself with a little help from his wife. Ma ends up in trouble with the local police, and is subsequently both shot and hanged. Again, following family tradition, it is up to young Johnny to cut his parents down. His lack of arms makes this impossible, and after enduring troubles of his own, Johnny flees Ireland in search of a better life in America.
GOD HATES THE IRISH, so Johnny never reaches our shores, and his ballad loses some cohesion in act 2. There is one unnecessary scene set in Ethiopia, and an exchange between Johnny and love interest Feather that feels out of place. All along the way, outrageous as things may be, they just happen to Johnny without any need for explanation beyond what the title implies. Then we get to this unlikely coupling, and we are told Feather’s motivation, which is neither funny nor consistent with the feel of the rest of the work.
Happily, the performers are quite good and game. Lisa Altomare and Remy Auberjonois in particular add both humor and quality in their various supporting roles. The set design, including a mountain of ubiquitous potatoes, the costumes, the music and the material itself are all intended to make the GOD HATES THE IRISH experience a humorous one. The pacing aids in this goal.
Small criticisms aside, anyone not put off by the absolutely up front and in your face non-stop farce designed to offend all-comers should have a good laugh at the expense of poor old Johnny. GOD HATES THE IRISH: THE BALLAD OF ARMLESS JOHNNY. Think of it as musical theater for the South Park generation.
- Kessa De Santis -