My Aunt Bee
Laid Back Delight
The Odd Couple meets The Golden Girls in Seamus O’Rourke’s oddball comedy "My Aunt Bee,” where a hard drinking, lover of life in no need of anyone, clashes with a lonely widow terrified of living. Funny, heartfelt, with some cracking one liners, "My Aunt Bee" is an absolute delight for those of a certain age. For everyone else it’s still a delight, though maybe not absolutely.
Like Neil Simon’s classic, "My Aunt Bee" sees an unwanted visitor intruding on the home of a bewildered host following a recent misfortune. Bee, the no nonsense aunt from Arkansas, with a penchant for narcolepsy and a passion for vodka, is one hundred years old and kicking, even if her transmission unit is a little faulty. Flying home to Ireland for the first time in eighty odd years, Dee is appalled when she finally meets her fifty year old nephew, Myles; a sensitive reaction of a man who looks lost without a woman to care for or a woman to care for him. Like the covered pictures in his deathly living room, Myles isn’t quite as he should be, as much in mourning for his own life as for his wife and mother who've recently passed. As the long lost relatives reunite, cultures and personalities clash as luggage is moved, cars go missing, and vodka is drank in copious amounts. But if these opposites don’t immediately attract, maybe they’re more like each other than either would care to admit.
Like a laid back episode of Last of the Summer Wine, director Laura Dowdall keeps things fluid and easy. Yet pace can prove sluggish in places. Whether this lies with Dowdall or O’Rourke’s script it’s not easy to say. With very little happening and less at stake there’s a strong lack of urgency throughout. Indeed, much of the action amounts to two strangers, one a dynamo the other an insipid teacher in a tank top, a man acted upon rather than taking action, sitting around talking, arguing and reminiscing for long periods of time. If this lends itself to a going nowhere easiness that proves to be part of “My Aunt Bee’s” charm, when O’Rourke injects lively flashpoints of urgency you’re left begging for more, and wondering at what might have been had there been more at stake.
With some terrific one liners and moments of poetry, O’Rourke’s signature stylings are abundantly, and irresistibly, in evidence. Yet as well as being a master wordsmith, O’Rourke proves himself to be a master of the well placed prop, with suitcases and pizza boxes proving hilariously funny. While both an uncredited set designer and lighting designer do themselves proud, the bizarre placing of a Sacred Heart painting on the one wall with restricted viewing left a large part of the audience to work out why everyone else was laughing, diminishing the impact of one of the show's most ingeniously comic scenes.
Ultimately "My Aunt Bee" is defined by Bee and Myles who carry the day courtesy of two delightful performances. Bairbre Ní Chaoimh’s Bee, channelling traces of the indefatigable spirit of Estelle Getty’s Sophia from The Golden Girls, though with Ní Chaoimh’s own personal flourishes, is an absolute winner, right down the American accent. O’Rourke, once again, turns in another compelling performance, delighting as the lumbering loaf with a sensitive spot. Funny, heartfelt and utterly charming, the sparks might fly in “My Aunt Bee,” but it still delivers an abundance of charm. A laid back delight.
"My Aunt Bee" by Seamus O’Rourke, presented by The Viking Theatre and Big Guerilla Productions, runs at the Viking Theatre until June 29.