The Salvage Shop is a quiet, unassuming production of exceedingly linear narrative, hardly revolutionary in form, frankly — not the kind of theater that usually moves me. And yet it nevertheless snuck up on me, a throwback to an era of straight topical theater that has passed us by. It is an elegiac work, almost musical in the manner by which its scenes flow into one another, time passing over the course of a few months in the lives of the Tansey family in the small coastal town of Garris, Ireland.
Nolan’s work languidly explores lost dreams, the passage of time, and recapturing the promise of one’s youth. It follows a long tradition of so-called “Irish plays” like Martin McDonagh’s recent Connemara Trilogy, Nolan’s own The Boathouse, as well as the works of Sean O’Casey — dramas filled with regional Irish color, humor, and much drinking (always the drinking), — but also a sense of family pride, loyalty, and perseverance amidst calamity that is universal in scope.
Funny and heart-wrenching, Nolan’s play boasts a powerful performance by David Little as the bombastic patriarch of the family, a musical bandleader whose march against time has caught up with him. He is joined by an able cast who fill out the roles of friends, family, and adversaries with journeyman aplomb. The Salvage Shop’s love and reverence for music — opera, symphonies, small town bands, is deeply felt, and produces a dramatic lyricism that is poignant and touching.