Written by Irish playwright Dion Boucicault, the play is set against the backdrop of the Fenian uprising in 1867 Ireland. The plot follows the stories of several different characters as they attempt to defend and rescue escaped Irish soldier Robert Ffolliott (played by junior Clark Goodwin) with the help of Conn, the Shaughraun (played by first-year Micah Crandall). Through a whirlwind of overlapping stories, outlandish gestures and heavy Irish accents, the cast of Messiah’s production of “The Shaughraun” brings comedy to a new level.
According to the play’s director Ed Cohn, “To us, [the characters] are merely ridiculous, in the same manner of The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges and Abbot and Costello. In the world of comedic melodrama, characters are always over-the-top to the extent of being beyond belief.”
To further add to the play’s humor, audience engagement is encouraged. Sophomore theatre major Zachary Smith plays the role of Corry Kinchela, the show’s amusing villain. Whenever Smith’s character says something that is particularly evil, the audience is encouraged to hiss—Smith then rewards the audience with a twirl of his mustache and a devilish grin.
Similar sound effects from the audience are encouraged for the characters of Captain Molineux and Arte O’Neil, played by first-year musical theatre major Aiden Lewis and junior musical theatre major Hannah Arnold. Whenever Captain Molineux acts nobly, or Arte O’Neil says something sweet and adorable, shouts of “Huzzah!” and “Woo!” from the audience warrant heroic smiles and other comedic gestures from the characters.
The show features a mix of amusing peril and deceit amidst intertwined love stories of three different couples. Each member of the show’s cast artfully masters the quality of exaggerated Irish and English accents and brings an abundance of comedic flair to an intense time period in Irish history. Cohn states, “Boucicault manages to set his play in a grimly serious place and time, but then allows us to forget that as the characters reveal their follies and foibles for our entertainment.”
If you haven’t yet seen the Department of Theatre and Dance’s comical production of “The Shaughraun,” be sure to see its final performances tonight and tomorrow afternoon in Miller Theater. With its delightful plot, ridiculous characters and memorable set designs, “The Shaughraun” is a spectacle that you won’t want to miss!