Luck Just Kissed You Hello
Jamie O’Neill, Riley Carter and Ross O’Donnellan in Luck Just Kissed You Hello. Image: Ros Kavanagh
Big Ted is dead. Brain-dead that is, lying comatose in a bed as his three children bicker. On the evidence of their endless arguing, Ted might be better off. Though they say people can hear you in a coma. Oh well, tough luck Ted. In the current revival of Amy Conroy's 2015 play Luck Just Kissed You Hello there are moments in which interest kisses you goodbye. It's ninety minutes of onstage debate about whether to sign a release for your dead father's organs, as he wished, making for a modest commentary on masculinity and a lot of hard going. Textually, and sub-textually, there's complications due to family history and notions of gender, but they might have carried more weight if something more pressing was happening in real time instead of three people bickering over the same shared backstories. Or had something, like sacrificing an inheritance, or a kidney, been at stake for Mark in deciding whether to sign a release from which others might benefit. In the absence of which, his identity politics begin to feel like selfishness.
But inheritance there isn't, even if there's legacy. Nor characters much to speak off. Conroy serving up a study in masculinity by way of male postured performances rather than people. Firstly the cuckolded, straight boy Sullivan, apple of his adopted-father's eye, a man with a wife and a child on the way. Then there's gay son, Gary, and estranged trans-son Mark, formerly Laura, neither of whom Ted seems to hold in any regard. Finally there's Ted, a hard love patriarch whose idea of male initiation involves dogs, a summers day, a block, some rope, and a pier. Tough love to toughen you up for a world where sissies are frowned upon. Trauma? What's that? There’ll be no Daddies girls being Mammies boys in Ted's family. Eh, about that Ted.
Ross O’Donnellan, Riley Carter and Jamie O’Neill in Luck Just Kissed You Hello.Image: Ros Kavanagh
Throughout, Conroy's script loops and repeats without spiralling higher or digging deeper, hitting a conceptual brick wall like the one dominating Sarah Bacon's set. Repetition stretching to sentences which frequently echo themselves, a la," I want to read the eulogy. You want to read the eulogy?" Holding masculinities and famlies up like a prism, Conroy's script twists this way and that to shine light on different angles, with fatherhood and gender expectations always at the centre, yielding as many blindspots as moments of insight. Wayne Jordan's pacing and direction, rising, at best, to the bitchy eloquence of a drag brunch, more often than not sinks to the petulance of food fight in a kindergarden. If it highlights the ridiculousness of gender at times, the weighting can make it hard to take other arguments seriously. Not helped by chairs being moved with the frequency and pointlessness of a nervous tic. Making it harder to invest in the experience for it always pulling you out. Despite invested performances from Riley Carter, Ross O'Donnellan and Jamie O'Neill.
Jamie O’Neill, Ross O’Donnellan and Riley Carter in Luck Just Kissed You Hello. Image: Ros Kavanagh
Luck Just Kissed You Hello delivers strong moments and challenging ideas. Why would a gay woman want to become a straight white male? What does that mean for their identity. If a woman slept with a woman who always felt like a man, is that strictly a gay relationship? More importantly, why couldn't we have had more humour like the Take That joke which is seriously funny? As the final image cedes the stage to Mark, it's a strong yet problematic statement. Granted his emotive expressiveness, his forgiveness, his ownership of himself and identity have a powerful resonance on notions of masculinity and male identity. Yet even as trauma needs release and boys most certainly do cry, your heart strings are not so much tugged as mercilessly yanked during Mark's emotional climax. Leaving the tidied up end smacking of unconvincing resolve. And you perhaps wondering if maybe next years male might make for a better model.
Luck Just Kissed You Hello by Amy Conroy, directed by Wayne Jordan, runs at The Peacock Stage of The Abbey Theatre until May 14.
For more information visit The Abbey Theatre