Too much and not enough
At one point during Eva O’Connor’s latest play, “Maz and Bricks,” Maz describes the Rosie Hackett Bridge as the queen of all bridges. When Bricks objects, Maz’s defence against his lack of respect is to cite all the positive attributes of Rosie Hackett. Hackett may well have been a queen among women, but that doesn’t make the bridge named after her a queen among bridges. In many respects “Maz and Bricks” suffers the same fate. Abortion, abuse, suicide, to name but a few, there’s no question of the weight of the themes O’Connor is attempting to deal with. But these weighty themes don't necessarily deliver a weighty play. Indeed, they often get in the way with O’Connor's passionate labour of love being perhaps a little too blinded by its own passion, lecturing large in a conflicted production that’s big on the facts, but not as big on the feels.
In “Maz and Bricks,” Maz, a petulant protester with a Perma-frown, travels into town on a Luas to march in support of Repealing the Eighth. Across from her, Bricks, a Talifornian, cheeky chappy, oozing charm and confidence, makes his move as he heads to pick up his four-year-old daughter. Over the course of the day fate draws this odd couple together proving opposites might just attract, for the only thing they have in common is damage. As the day goes on they talk, kiss, steal, share secrets and moments, but will that be enough to save a life, or redeem a soul?
Throughout, O’Connor’s conflicted script seems immersed in binary opposites, not all of which are as successful as they might have been. A situation compounded by some narrative big asks of the audience, particularly around impulsive suicides and how deep, or quick, is your love. If Bricks is human, relatable and likeable, Maz is so buried beneath her issues as to risk being completely obscured by them, of becoming less a character and more of an attitude. A walking wound with a collection of chips on her shoulders and a barely sketched back story, all of which has her bordering on the dislikeable. Against which Bricks bubbles with personality. Indeed, the first ten minutes establishes what’s to follow, with Bricks talking of his issues, his past, and the people in his life with charm and warmth, while Maz delivers what feels like a self-righteous lecture. O’Connor’s use of language, whose humour can sparkle, doesn’t always help in this regard. While her dialogue is often wonderfully well written, internal monologues aren’t always as successful, due to a lightweight use of Mark O’Rowe styled rhyme and rhythm. Where O’Rowe uses language like shards of shattered glass, creating prisms that offer a variety of perspectives and a pulsating energy, that same depth and richness just isn't here, despite an excessive wordiness at times. Where O’Connor does excel is in her use of descriptions, and in the character of Bricks, who is realised which depth, finesse and precision.
Director Jim Culleton taps into the energy beneath O’Connor’s words and keeps the action moving at a perfectly pitched pace. Set and costume design by Maree Kearns, along with lighting design by Sinéad McKenna, and a subtle sound design by Carl Kennedy, go a long way towards suggesting something of “Maz and Bricks” internal landscape. Stephen Jones as Bricks does a remarkable job as the Tallaght boy with a big, broken heart and a daughter he loves more than anything, though, in fairness, he does have all the best lines. Eva O’Connor as Maz, doesn’t quite match Jones's more nuanced virtuosity, begging the question of her perhaps being too close to the material, and of what an actor with more distance might have done. Granted, Maz is a woman wounded so deep she’s in a permanent state of defence, but O’Connor’s consistent, unchanging delivery, broken only by the rare smile, doesn’t always do it justice, even if, at moments, the pain buried so deep rises and is glimpsed, hinting at what might have been.
“Maz and Bricks” is a play of two halves, one of which is utterly riveting and engaging, the other less so. If Maz never quite sparks to life, Bricks is utterly unforgettable. If the lecturing tone has you withdrawing, the sparkling humour draws you back in. If the issue driven dialogue feels like it’s all been said before, and said better, the conversations between O’Connor’s characters, when they get beyond their issues, suggests there’s a wonderful play, and two wonderful characters, looking to get out. O’Connor certainly has talent, and almost has something special here, it just feels like it’s not quite there yet.
“Maz and Bricks” by Eva O’Connor, produced by Fishamble: The New Play Company and directed by Jim Culleton, runs at The Project Arts Centre until May 13th
For more information, visit The Project Arts Centre or Fishamble.