TROUSERS (Inis Nua): The Proof Is in the Pants

Photo: Katie Reing

In keeping with their native tradition of storytelling, Irish playwrights Paul Meade and David Parnell weave an engaging tale of two estranged men who reconnect and revisit their shared youth in TROUSERS. It’s a seemingly simple story that lures us in with a joke (anyone who’s ever struggled with a building’s buzz-in intercom system will relate), then hooks us with gradual revelations about the truth of their relationship (read co-dependency) and the role friendship plays in reinforcing, for better or worse, a man’s self-image. No one is more expert at telling the story of the human condition than Inis Nua Theatre Company, and director Tom Reing does it again with his characteristic humor and sensitivity in this entertaining and insightful production.

Dermot (Jared Michael Delaney) and Mick (Adam Rzepka) were “mates” through high school and college in Dublin, but have had little contact for seventeen years, following a summer together in Manhattan, “a stunning, stunning place [where] everything seemed possible . . .” Filled with nostalgia and regrets over their unfulfilled lives, Mick’s current crises (he was fired from his job and his girlfriend threw him out) lead him back to aspiring DJ, full-time postman, and recently health-conscious Dermot; in short, Mick needs a place to crash, so shows up at his old drinking chum’s with no money, a few odd belongings, and a sob story. Their reunion triggers Dermot’s flashbacks to that earlier time in New York, as they sort out the past and its lingering impact on the present, with the aid of a telltale pair of pants.

The intimate character study of two troubled men is played with wit, nuance, and a fine understanding of what makes these people tick and how they relate to one another. Rzepka is alternately funny and maddening as the self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and shockingly inconsiderate Mick, who despite growing older has not grown up, while the masterful Delaney brings a deeply felt mixture of sardonic wit, poignancy, sympathy, and acceptance to Dermot, in his process of self-realization and self-improvement. The “odd couple’s” interactions include lively duets of old familiar songs with telling lyrics by Simon and Garfunkel, featuring Rzepka on harmonica and Delaney on guitar, and offers a musical metaphor in which one performs the lead, but the other provides the harmony.

Video projections (designed by Janelle A. Kauffman) and lighting (Andrew Cowles) effectively shift the time and locale back and forth from Dublin to New York, from now to then, without the need for a set change (scenic design by Stephen Hungerford), and a final touch of magic (props by Avista Custom Theatrical) underscores Dermot’s decision to forgo wallowing in loneliness, depression, and juvenile fixations by recognizing the power and benefits of positive thinking. February 5-23, 2014; www.inisnuatheatre.org.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.