The “Blues” in question are playwright Geraldine Hughes’ eyes, and her Catholic upbringing in Belfast — amidst the sectarian violence of the Troubles, and the economically brutal Thatcher 80s — serves as creative fodder for a ticket out.
In 80 minutes, Hughes revisits her “wee girl” experience taking on a breathtaking range of personas: sassy, chain-smoking IRA sympathizing neighbor, big-hearted, eyelid smacking butcher, strict Catholic school nun, too-many-pints-drinking father, occupying British soldier, and the American TV producer who ends up saving her.
Through it all is an unrelenting sunniness amidst pain that only the Irish can seem to muster. One can’t help but see parallels to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in Hughes’ powerful tale. A moment in which she ironically compares the facial “differences” of Protestant “Orangies” and Irish Catholics recalls some of the more absurd rhetoric employed in places as disparate as Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. That’s why Hughes wrote Belfast Blues, in deference to children in war zones all over the planet, and one senses it was a cathartic exercise for the playwright. Rich and compelling video projections produce a multi-media experience that, rather than dwarfing the action, meshes seamlessly with it.
It doesn’t always sit well to see such pain presented for what is in essence a night of light-hearted entertainment, but Hughes has so much to say about religion, the absurd banality of cultural conflict, and the promise of America across the planet, that her virtuoso performance begrudgingly enlightens.
45 Bleecker St, 212-541-8457, Tue-Sat 8pm