Misha's Reviews > Mad Angels: The Plays of Larry Kirwan

Mad Angels by Larry Kirwan
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's review
Jun 06, 10

bookshelves: anthology, fiction, historical-fiction, own, plays, politics, music
Read in March, 2009

I liked reading Kirwan's 5 plays, but like his music better. The songs of Irish rock band Black 47 tend to be political so it was no surprise that the plays are of the same strain.

"Liverpool Fantasy" is an alternate history portraying how music can be a necessary and important influence on society. Deciding to bury the hatchet with his old bandmates, Paul McCartney returns to a decaying Britain. Without the group as catalysts, social and political turbulence was nonexistent and both Britain and the U.S. became conservative to the point of fascism.

It’s a unique take on how music, or the lack thereof, can affect society for better or worse. It was a bit long winded, but interesting none the less.

"Days of Rage" is a musical-drama about fighting to hold onto dreams. 15 years after becoming a musician, Stevie Hero must face his demons. He feels failed and sold out by his manager. On one shoulder he has his moral conscience in the form of a guerilla while on the other James "the Just" Joyce warning Stevie to stick to his guns.

It’s strange, but it oddly works. It reflects Kirwan’s own dealings with the ghosts that inspired the play. He says in the introduction, "Rock & Roll itself, not some diluted Broadwayized bullshit, would have a leading part".

"Mister Purnell" portrays the political and religious divisions between Ireland’s Protestants and Catholics, the love of one’s country, freedom, and dignity. It's based off of the scandal around William O’Shea’s divorce from his wife because of her affair with Charles Stewart Parnell, who had a chance at becoming a leader for the Home Rule Movement, which was predominately Catholic.

It's an interesting peek into the politics and history of 19th century Ireland. The sentiments of Ireland and England are personified, which works quite well.

"Blood" revolves around the disappearance of the leader of the Irish Citizen Army. James Connolly was shot by a British squad shortly after his involvement in the Easter Rising in 1916. During his captivity, Sean McDermott and Patrick Pearse convinced him to join in a suicidal attempt to overthrow British rule in Ireland.

Its intensity suits the events from which it’s based.

"Night in the Garden" is about a young boxer named Frankie who has the chance at the fight of a lifetime, and possibly his last. Except or his ex-trainer and his wife, everyone wants a piece of him.

It’s as quick paced as a boxing match and very New Yorker.

The plays’ move rather quickly, at times it’s dizzying. Colloquisms comes through loud and clear and Kirwan makes no attempt to soften the language unless it’s necessary for a character. He captures the characters, emotions, turmoil, and politics quite well. All but "Night in the Garden" were performed off-Broadway in the 80's, before Black 47 formed.

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