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Tony winner comes to Waco

March 26, 2003

By Jennifer Thomas

Waco Civic Theatre opened the performance of 'Dancing at Lughnasa' by Tony Award winner Brian Friel Friday night.

'Dancing at Lughnasa' focuses on the childhood memories of Friel's fictional character, Michael Evans. Set in County Donegal, Ireland, in 1936, Michael is only 7 when his world starts to crumble. His elderly uncle Jack returns home slightly crazy, his single mother and her sisters transform from being well behaved Catholic women to wildly dancing rebels, and he meets his charming Welsh father for the first time. These opening events bring about the disaster that destroys the foundation of the family forever.

'I was mesmerized by the beauty of Friel's writing and the incredible images that he paints,' said Jennifer Bauer, executive director of Waco Civic Theatre.

Friel, a practicing Catholic, was born in Northern Ireland in 1929. He lived and studied in London to become a priest, but changed his mind and worked as a teacher for 10 years. He wrote 'Dancing at Lughnasa' in 1990, and it received three Tony Awards in 1992 after its successful run on Broadway.

'It is easy for a show of this nature to be misinterpreted and presented in a manner that focuses on the negativity of the life of the Mundy family rather than the joys that the family experiences by just being together,' Bauer said.

'Dancing at Lughnasa' may appeal to an older audience because of the time and setting and the conflicts focused on romantic relationships and tight family bonds. The Irish accents also require a strong listener.

Audience member Libby Jones, 16, of Waco, joined her family at the play to celebrate her mother's birthday.

'I thought the play was better during the second act,' Jones said. 'But my mom really liked it. She laughed a lot, and I think she could relate more to the story.'

Bauer said that her only hope is that the audience 'will discover the sheer delight in Michael Evans' memory of his summer in 1936.'

Waco Civic Theatre will perform 'The Velveteen Rabbit' by Margery Williams in April and 'Into the Woods' by James Lapine in May. For more information and reservations call the Waco Civic Theatre box office at 776-1591.