Wheeling-Oglebay Institute's Towngate Theatre continues its 44th season with a beloved Irish tale Maurice Walsh's The Quiet Man, the humorous and poignant story of the interconnected lives of the men and women who fought in the Irish War of Independence. It will be staged March 14, 15 and 16 and March 21 and 22.
Adapted for the stage by Frank Mahon, Maurice Walsh's The Quiet Man is based on Green Rushes, the classic book of short stories by Maurice Walsh. Published in 1935, the book was the inspiration for the legendary 1952 Academy Award-winning film The Quiet Man, which was directed by John Ford and starred Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne.
Mahon cleverly adapted the classic story for the stage, without attempting to reconstruct the John Ford movie. Following more closely the original tales from Walsh's Green Rushes, he takes audiences on a journey back in time to the sweeping Irish countryside in the midst of the country's battle for freedom from England in 1921 and the years that follow.
Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre continues its 44th season with a beloved Irish tale – Maurice Walsh’s The Quiet Man, March 14, 15 and 16 and March 21 and 22. Pictured left to right are Bob Gaudio, Vincent Marshall and Rachel Thompson.
"John Ford bought the rights to Maurice Walsh's short story, The Quiet Man as it appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, in 1933 for $10. He took great liberties with the story," explained Mahon. "In 1935, Walsh took The Quiet Man and made it part of a collection of five stories called Green Rushes. All of those stories, including The Quiet Man, involved men who had fought in a flying column (guerilla fighters) during the Irish War of Independence. The stories start just before the Truce, in July, 1921, and end seven years later."
Mahon's play tells the story in the rich context of Walsh's stories, following this group of guerilla fighters as they band together to rebuild their lives when the Irish War of Independence draws to a close. Mahon has intricately woven tales of domestic and romantic relationships between the characters, bringing great humor and emotion to their tale.
Director Tim Thompson said that The Quiet Man is one of his favorite movies, and after reading Mahon's play, he loved the story even more.
Towngate Irish Pub
Patrons attending the March 14th and 21st performances of Maurice Walsh's The Quiet Man have to option to stay afterwards for the Towngate Irish Pub, a fundraiser for the theater.
The event takes place from 10 p.m.- midnight and includes Ye Olde Alpha food, Irish beers (courtesy Carenbauer Distributing) and live and rowdy Irish music. Space is limited for these pub nights and advance registration is required by calling 304-242-7700 or online at www.oionline.com.
"The play is much deeper than an Irish love story. Frank poignantly depicts a major part of Ireland's history and struggle for freedom and at the same time beautifully illustrates the passionate struggles of individuals at a time of political turmoil and civil unrest."
Mahon said that for the movie version Ford took all the politics and most references of war out of the story.
"He (Ford) had some solid reasons for doing so at the time. He made a classic film and picked up an Oscar for Best Director. But politics and war are essential to the book and the play," Mahon said. "We come into the saga just after an ambush. From that point on, we witness how this 'band of brothers' stays together, supporting each other in peacetime as they did in wartime. We also see how all those lives have been altered by war. And the women in the story are no less a part of the fight for Irish freedom. "
Although the play is set in 1921, universal themes- such as friendship, loyalty, love and a sense of community- run deep throughout, making the play transcend any era.
"At the heart of the play, it's all about community. Flying Columns were often comprised of men from the same towns. So they had known each other for years before they signed up as volunteers. They were always there for each other," Mahon said. "Another theme is what happens to lives as a result of war. All the characters are changed. After the fighting stops, they all return to their normal lives, but, as they say, it's a new normal."
Mahon's play opened in March of 2009 at the Chicago Theatre Downstairs.
It was nominated for two Joseph Jefferson Awards (Chicago's Tony's), for Best New Adaptation and Best Supporting Actor. Some of Maurice Walsh's grandchildren flew over from County Wicklow for opening night.
"They told me that their grandfather would have approved," Mahon said.
Since then the play has been staged numerous times, including a mini-tour in Ireland in 2013. There have also been several staged readings and "pub versions" of the play done in Chicago, New York City and at the Ohio County Library in Wheeling in August of 2012.
Thompson said that Towngate Theatre partnered with Sean Duffy and the Lunch with Books program to present a reading of the shorter "pub version" of the play at the library to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the movie. He said more than 200 people came to enjoy the celebration and really liked the play.
Mahon said audiences will easily relate to the characters, and he hopes the play will take them on a journey back in time to Ireland.
"I hope the audience will feel that they have visited a little village in north Kerry, and have been part of that community for a couple of hours. For me, the play says that if something is worth having, it's worth fighting for. And true love sometimes requires making tough choices. I hope the audience gets that as well."
The Capitol Theatre and Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation proudly sponsor Towngate Theatre's production of Maurice Walsh's The Quiet Man.
It is rendered by a very talented, local cast. Vincent Marshall stars as Paddy Bawn Enright; Rachel Thompson stars as Ellen Roe O'Danaher; Bob Gaudio portrays Red Will O'Danaher; Wayne McCord is Hugh Forbes; P.D. Greg plays Mickeen Oge Flynn; Eric Dutton is Sean Glynn, Kim Brown plays Joan Hyland, and Walt Warren is Tobin.
It will be staged at 8 p.m. March 14, 15, 21 and 22 and 3 p.m. March 16 at Towngate Theatre, 2118 Market Street, Wheeling. Tickets can be purchased by calling 304-242-7700 or at www.oionline.com. For those buying seats at the door, Towngate's box office opens one hour before all shows and can be reached at 304-233-0820.