- Chris O'Rourke
One Hour to Ron Montana
One Hour to Ron Montana. Image uncredited.
Rex Ryan, one of Ireland's most fiercely talented actors. A man of unquestionable passion and vision. Who, some would argue, can be blinded by his passion and vision at times. On the evidence of his latest one man venture with Glass Mask Theatre, One Hour to Ron Montana by Keith-James Walker, one detects a little of all of the above. Take Ryan's opening of a much needed new venue for producing new plays. A brave and crazy idea at the best of times. But it requires a whole other level of crazy, passion, and vision to do so under COVID. Yet that's exactly what Ryan and his wife, Miglė, have done. Transforming, each evening, one of Dublin favourite coffee shops and bistros, Bookseller on Dawson Street, into a theatre venue. One that's still finding its feet. The stage a small, raised platform, very well lit. Yet its cabaret style seating, with accompanying food and drink, create a convivial, dinner theatre ambiance.
Like the fledgling venue, One Hour to Ron Montana also has some tasty morsels on offer, even as it suffers some teething pains. Following the introduction of a dynamic man in red shorts and roller-skates, we're left in the company of the gormless David. Or Damien. Or Declan. It begins with a D. A forgettable, energy draining Horace Wimp you would dread being stuck beside on an eight hour flight. Occassionally funny, in a dry, dead pan, not funny enough kind of way, everything in David's life is a problem. His father, his mother, his Al Pacino impression, his love of cheese. Mostly his inability to disco dance on which everything hinges, and ultimately falls. Like the hypnotist Ron Montana, or the promised 80s soundtrack, creating expectations not quite delivered on.
Miglė Ryan of Glass Mask Theatre. Image uncredited
Using a fractured narrative Walker appears to want to drag us down a rabbit hole into a quirky, absurdist universe. Instead, its word-weighted world feel like a lopsided picture that's been hung wrong. With its Jackanory style delivery trapping characters in an excess of vocabulary, and its feel nothing ending going nowhere, David's stationary journey ends less with the bang you hoped for so much as a another of David's whimpers. Even allowing for a semi-cathartic scream. Yet several moments, such as the genius 28 books on Irish disco, reveal just how smart and funny Walker can be. If only he'd taken a hammer to the text and knocked the wordy excess out of it. Something that might have been encouraged had someone other than himself directed.
With studied...almost Shatner styled pauses, Walker has David…tell his story…with little pace and energy. Yet in the hands of Ryan there are still moments of engaging brilliance. It speaks to Ryan's talent that he can take the dullest man on earth, eclipsed by Walker’s intriguing secondary characters, and still make you care for him. As well as bringing all those additional characters vividly to life on a stage with little room, lights that are learning, and an unchallenged script that overplays its hand even as it delivers some hugely engaging moments.
One Hour to Ron Montana offers a three star script, showing lots of promise, elevated by a four star performance. Played out in a venue reaching for the stars. Whose cabaret style setting is sure to present challenges as well as opportunities, including those of audience expectations. Yet if anyone can hold a room in the palm of their hand, it's Rex Ryan. And as Miglė Ryan has shown with Bookseller, she can take a space and magically transform it, ensuring that even if you don't love the show, always a risk with new plays, you're sure to enjoy the experience. Despite its learning curve, there is much to love in One Hour to Ron Montana, including the fact that it, like the venue, is on a learning curve. And to love in Glass Mask Theatre facilitating such learning curves for new works. The first of many shows, we hope, for this hopelessly romantic undertaking. Glass Mask Theatre, we're rooting for you.
One Hour to Ron Montana by Keith-James Walker, presented by Glass Mask Theatre, runs at Glass Mask Theatre (Bookseller), Dawson Street, until August 28.
Under current COVID restrictions Glass Mask Theatre is catagorised as indoor dining. COVID Vaccination Certs are required for admittance at this time.
For more information visit Glass Mask Theatre.