The Shadow of a Gunman

The Shadow of a Gunman
By Celine Grajo
November 17, 2016

Dublin, May 1920. The Irish War of Independence rages on.

Interior: messy, miserable, and mysterious. A crucifix hangs on a gray wall, a window to the side, and furniture is sparse. Exterior: the British forces engage in guerilla warfare with the Irish Republican Army.

“The Shadow of a Gunman” scopes in on a tenement building and its broad range of characters amidst Ireland’s fight for self-governance and freedom. In the poet Donal Davoren, who is mistaken for a gunman on the run, lies a romantic dreamer, whose refusal to acknowledge the war creates tension with his roommate Seamus Shields, a peddler enamoured by the nationalist cause, who has desperate hopes for the fighting to end. Contrasting views on the British government surface in the young, excited Tommy Owens, who yearns to fight for the rebellion, and the drunk Adolphus Grigson, who is content with his Bible, his habits, and the ruling class. The Landlord, Mrs. Mulligan, embodies the harsh realities of the poor, grasping for their dues, and Minnie Powell, the heroine of our story, represents Ireland’s hope and fighting spirit. Civilians Gallogher, Henderson, and Mrs. Grigson act as testaments to the pleas and needs of the Irish people – hunger, shelter, peace – while Maguire and the Auxiliaries enforce their views as the personifications of the two opposing forces of war.

In tradition with Opening Night, there were a few minor lapses in script and struggles with the equipment. Special credit goes out to the production team, who worked weeks to paint and construct the set, design outfits and posters, and were responsible for lighting, sound, and management of ticket sales. Overall, the cast did a great job in portraying the unpredictable and explosive nature and casualties of war. The chemistry between foremen Jacob McCullough and Robert Meade, who played Donal and Seamus, respectively, was palpable and lasted the entirety of the play; their characters’ conflicting views on the war, and on life, only added to the plot. McCullough and Sarah Lacker, who gracefully tackled the role of Minnie Powell, provided a believable attraction, though Minnie’s naive views on patriotism were in complete contrast to Donal’s constant cynicism.

In 1923, creator Sean O’Casey casted all men in his initial play. In 2016, director McCullough and stage manager Jenn Grumet wanted to express a message of female empowerment, and therefore replaced many male roles with female actors. The purpose of this was, simply, to rebut the gender stereotypes that still exist in our society. These positions of power and authority were filled by Maria Maguire and Kristina Lodato, who made their debuts on St. Thomas’ stage last Thursday, alongside Justine Gizzi, Erin Durkin, Linda Thomas, and Lucia Ponce, with Zan Smith as the only female character to have stayed their original gender.

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