A play about five grown men lamenting their small penis sizes has potential to go in several directions. If too funny it could appear juvenile, but if too serious it could present too morose and sullen. Fortunately, the new Off-Broadway play "The Irish Curse" manages to stir a clear course from either extreme, alternatively managing to maintain a delicate balance between gut wrenching heartbreak and sidesplitting humor.
The action takes place in the basement of a church, where an affable priest holds a support group for three men with limited endowments. When a fourth member (Roderick Hill) joins the group, he inadvertently takes the emotional climate to new levels, allowing each man to reveal his heartache, sacrifices, disappointments, and resilience in unforeseen ways. Along the way the audience is privy to the secret anguish and fears that nearly every man experiences including, “Am I big enough?” “Am I worthy of being in a relationship?” “Do I measure up to others?” “Would my life be different if my penis was larger?” Toto, I don’t think we’re in Oakdale anymore.
Speaking of which, Austin Peck delivers a scene-stealing attention-demanding performance in his role of Stephen, a 38-year-old gay man who painfully finds himself on the outside of an outside group. The acting skills Peck acquired during his three year stint on AS THE WORLD TURNS are in full display here, as he has become brilliantly adept at toggling displays of arrogance and insecurity, anger and humor, selfishness and empathy, and adult and childlike features. His body and his brain are constantly in motion on stage, lending a deeper level of vulnerability and unpredictability to his character’s falsely confident swagger.
There are several moments where interesting sociopolitical speculations are presented. The characters hypothesize that only political leaders with small penises are invested in going to war, thereby explaining why Clinton and Obama have favored periods of peace. (One can only imagine how they might perceive recent decisions by certain Executive Producers!). Ultimately, however, the strength of the script lies in demonstrating how every one can take back their power by changing their thinking. If one decides to question their identity, and challenge long held poisonous assumptions, then they are liberated to live live and experience relationships on their own terms.
Here’s the S.A.S.S. [Short Attention Soap Summary]
WHAT IS IT: "The Irish Curse," written by Martin Casella, directed by Matt Lenz, starring Dan Butler, Roderick Hill, Scott Jaeck, Brian Leahy, and Austin Peck, playing at the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, in New York City.
WHY SOAP FANS WILL LOVE IT: Being privy to the intimate secrets of our heroes used to be a staple ingredient of daytime soaps. Fans of Peck from DAYS OF OUR LIVES and AS THE WORLD TURNS will value seeing what this actor can do without camera cutaways or commercial breaks.
BOTTOM LINE: If you have ever looked in the mirror and had doubts about being worthy of love because of "shoulds" about your body, then this play that will set you free.
VERDICT: Don’t allow this deceptively small gift pass you by! Get your tickets here for The Irish Curse now!
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.
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