Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Of Ethnic Hate and Universality

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Of Ethnic Hate and Universality

Article excerpt

THE PRESENCE of Brian Friel's rich and moving play, "Dancing at Lughnasa," on the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis stage recalls a sad and poignant story. While wryly humorous, and a grand insight into human nature, the story is basically depressing.

However, recent events around the world indicate that the tale still may have a happy ending.

The story came from Gary Siebert, a St. Louis-born and -educated Jesuit who now is assigned to a parish on the upper East Side of New York. A fine writer and knowledgeable theater man, he used to be a theater critic for America, the Jesuit-published magazine.

My memory of the story was jogged by recently by world events, by the slender beginnings of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis and between the English and Irish. Both sets of negotiations are extremely tenuous and still may fall through, but at least they are a start.

Anyway, Siebert was in Israel a few years ago, doing a major interview with the Patriarch of Jerusalem and some other stories, and some theater coverage at the same time.

He went to Haifa to see a production of a "Translations," a Friel play about the ill-fated romance between an English man and an Irish woman. The artistic director of the theater told Siebert that he produced it because he was hoping to show his largely Israeli audience that similar problems - based on racial, religious or ethnic hate - were common to people all over the world.

As Siebert recalled, "The director told me that this was the first time he had produced something like this, and he was curious as to the audience reaction. The applause was polite, but not overwhelming, and he didn't know what he'd hear when he stood in the lobby as the audience departed.

"He was absolutely shocked. Most who saw the play liked it, but the overwhelming comment was, "Boy, those people over there really have problems. …

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