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Queens Chronicle

An Irish play mixes the personal and the political

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Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2020 10:30 am

It opens with a man writing a suicide note. It finds an Irish family embroiled in an argument over the suspicious death of its patriarch. It addresses a controversial topic: the legalization of abortion.

And it’s a comedy ... of sorts!

It’s called “The 8th,” and its world premiere engagement runs through Jan. 18 at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City.

Playwright Seanie Sugrue describes the piece as “a very dark comedy,” quickly pointing out that “there is comic relief the whole way through.”

Set in County Kerry, where Sugrue’s hometown is, the play becomes a political piece that finds the people of Ireland divided as they prepare to vote on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment and legalize abortion. It’s considered the most contentious social issue the country has seen since its independence.

Sugrue, who arrived in New York City in 2005, began to write the play last April. Rehearsals got underway a month ago, with Sugrue also serving as director.

It’s the seventh time he’s directing one of his own plays, a circumstance that originally came about when he “couldn’t afford to hire a director.”

But, he points out, when mounting a brand-new play, “you want the playwright there. It’s useful having me there.”

Over the years, he has developed what he calls “a community of actors,” several of whom are involved in his latest undertaking.

“We have a good team and a couple of new people,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “You just want to build a nice environment.”

Bringing his words to life is a cast of eight, ranging in age from 19 to mid-70s, along with a radio that “is like a character.”

In writing the play, Sugrue was careful to not be preachy.

“Abortion is a touchy subject,” he conceded. The play “pushes tolerance — the whole point of the play.”

Each character has a different opinion on the matter. “I don’t push it on anyone as to who’s right and who’s wrong,” Sugrue said.

“The piece is very stylized,” he added. “We put old Ireland and new Ireland in a room together.” The room, incidentally, is based on the one in which he grew up.

While the play includes a considerable number of “Kerry jokes,” Sugrue says it’s “written like anyone can relate to it.”

Considering the subject matter and a sprinkling of profanity, Sugure recommends the play for “slightly more mature” audiences, but adds that it’s “not R-rated or anything like that.”

‘The 8th’

When: Thu.-Sat., Jan. 9-11; Tue.-Sat., Jan. 14-18, 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., Jan. 11-12; Sat., Jan. 18, 2 p.m.

Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23 St., Long Island City

Tickets: $20. (718) 392-0722, secrettheatre.com

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