June 5, 2023

Translations – A Play that Keeps on Ringing

by Veronica Andreades ’20

Staff Writer

        If you struggle with incomplete endings, this may not be the play for you. However, if you like to mull over things for an extended amount of time, then you should consider attending Translations.

        Written by Brian Friel and first performed in 1980, Translations explores themes of cultural imperialism and misunderstanding. The play is set in Baile Beag, Ireland in August 1833. Amidst the imposition of English engineers, who are mapping the country and anglicizing the Gaelic names, resides a small, hedge school, which is also under pressure from a new, English promoting educational institution, the National School. The characters face communication challenges as they encounter the English soldiers residing nearby, in addition to grappling with the general presence of these new forces.

        Much of the play focuses on language. Jimmy (Ryan Cannister ’19) opens the play with Greek and Latin quotations spoken with a thick, Irish accent. The audience soon after meets Sarah (Sarah Petrillo ’20), who has trouble speaking. When Yolland (Daniel Alverado ’17), a young, British orthographer, falls for Maire (Molly Sidell ’17), a bright, Irish-speaking milkmaid, communication issues become apparent.

While dealing with the odd reality that the audience hears English (even as the characters are speaking Irish), all the actors skillfully animate their characters. Bradley Boutcher ’18 performed an earnest and convincing schoolteacher. Alvarado and Sidell blew the audience away with their delightful and impassioned encounters as lovers. But no one can outdo Garrett E. Reynolds ’19 and his fierce portrayal of Captain Lancey.

Although the production incorporates humor and presents scenes that will make you fall off of your seat laughing, Friel’s work may bother the closure-seeking audience member. Intentionally, the playwright leaves certain narratives incomplete, forcing the observer to look elsewhere rather than the ending, the traditional hotspot for theatrical meaning.

        Through transitions in the production, Irish tunes play and lull the audience into the far, away country. Although the story’s abrupt ending might leave you yearning for more, Translations encapsulates Friel’s objective as a playwright. He once wrote, “For me, the true gift of theater, the real benediction of all art, is the ringing bell which reverberates quietly and persistently in the head long after the curtain has come down and the audience has gone home.”

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