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Troubles play The Belle of Belfast rapturously received in New York

By Claire McNeilly

Published 01/05/2015

Kate Lydic and Hamish Allan-Headley in The Belle of Belfast
Kate Lydic and Hamish Allan-Headley in The Belle of Belfast

A powerful play about forbidden love during The Troubles has become an instant hit on Broadway, it can be revealed.

The Belle of Belfast had its New York premiere at the DR2 theatre last week and has already received rave reviews from the influential New York Times theatre critic Andy Webster and others.

Written by American playwright Nate Rufus Edelman, the dark, witty and often irreverent drama is set in Belfast in 1985 and it centres on a 17-year-old woman, Anne Molloy, who is lost and angry after her parents are killed by an IRA bomb intended for someone else.

She turns to a local priest for comfort, but the relationship develops to a point where both parties are forced to re-evaluate where people find solace and faith during a time of conflict.

The play, directed by Claudia Weill and produced by the award-winning New York-based Irish Repertory Theatre, features Americans Kate Lydic as Anne and Hamish Allan-Headley as the priest, Ben Reilly. It is scheduled to run until June 7.

Webster wrote in the NY Times that the modern tragi-comedy was "a pressure cooker at steam heat!"

He added: "The characters don't renounce their faith or their political convictions in The Belle of Belfast. But they question both, and that makes for very rewarding drama."

Other Big Apple reviewers have given the production, which was initially showcased in Edelman's home town of Los Angeles three years ago, a big thumbs-up.

The Arab Voice said: "Not to be missed!" while Blog Critics said: "The Belle of Belfast shows an old-fashioned devotion to dramatic storytelling… Irish Rep has produced another winner." Stage Buddy said it was a "poignant exploration of how political, religious and social turmoil can cause crises in both youth and faith."

Theatre Scene said: "The Irish Repertory Theatre can always be counted on for good theatre. The Belle of Belfast is a sterling example."

Front Row Centre's assessment of the play - which features the music of legendary Belfast punk band Stiff Little Fingers - was: "Smartly written. Mr Edelman has a gift for dialogue and knows precisely how to balance wit with serious subjects. The Belle of Belfast is thoroughly entertaining".

Broadway Blog said Belle of Belfast, "a little firebomb of a play, is now detonating eight times weekly in one of the best acted productions I've seen at this venerable Off Broadway venue... This is good theatre."

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