Preview: A family tempest looms in ‘Sharon’s Grave’

by Sharon Eberson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Martin Giles and Alec Silberblatt. Photo by Suellen Fitzsimmons.

Martin Giles and Alec Silberblatt. Photo by Suellen Fitzsimmons.

The luck of the Irish doesn’t appear to be with Trassie Conlee. Her father is on his deathbed, and she, alone, must stand strong to protect her brother and her land from her cousins, the malevolent Dinzie and his brother Jack, who are hovering like vultures to take her home by the roiling sea.

As the story opens, a drifter arrives looking for work and lodging, and perhaps her luck is about to change.

PICT Classic Theatre tells the tale through Aug. 1, under the direction of Aoife Spillane-Hinks.

Set along a rugged Ireland coastline in the 1920s, “Sharon’s Grave” refers to a myth — created by eminent Irish playwright John Keane — that Trassie’s brother, Neelus, tells newcomer Peadar. It concerns “a great deep hole over there on the cliffs [with no] bottom to it … water is always wild and willful in it, even when the rest of the sea is calm.”

How the abyss came to be named for Sharon, a beautiful and tragic Celtic princess, and how her story connects to the Conlee family’s fate, is woven into a folksy yarn by Mr. Keane. Land ownership and longing for love are themes that permeate his plays, novels and essays, including this work.

James FitzGerald portrays Dinzie, described as “gruesome” in appearance, “a wizened small person.” His legs are paralyzed, and he is carried on the back of his brother (J. Alex Noble), both of them bearing the burden of Dinzie’s disabilities and mean streak. The cast includes other PICT regulars, including Karen Baum as Trassie, Byron Anthony as Peadar, Alec Silberblatt as Neelus and Martin Giles as the local healer, Pats Bo Bwee.

“Sharon’s Grave” runs through Aug. 1 at the Henry Heyman Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Times are 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 21; 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays (plus 2 p.m. July 29 and Aug. 1); and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are $13-$48 at or 421-561-6000.

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