Ronan Noone’s Dark American Voices
Transplanted Irish playwright premieres Little Black Dress tonight
In the slide show above, Ronan Noone (GRS’01) discusses his most recent play, Little Black Dress, premiering tonight at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.
One dreary Super Bowl Sunday, Irish-born Ronan Noone was slinging drinks at a Martha’s Vineyard bar when a man and woman came in with their little boy.
“I was struck by the anger in the man — it just oozed out of him,” recalls Noone (GRS’01). “And when he sat beside the woman, he sat so close that he invaded her personal space.”
Noone turned to get another beer, and when he looked back the man was choking the woman. “I saw fear in her eyes,” he says. “And I kept wondering, why didn’t she escape?”
The question haunted him for years and was the impetus for Little Black Dress, premiering tonight at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Third in an American trilogy, following another trilogy, set in Ireland, Little Black Dress is a dark comedy about fantasies, broken dreams, and regrets.
Midwestern-bred Amy Beaudreaux (Marianna Bassham) is trapped in a 19-year marriage to Jimmy Beaudreaux (Jeremiah Kissel), a man whose anger simmers. Amy sees her future as dull and flat as the Kansas prairie until she hires a gigolo to attend to her “fantasies.” Her newfound sexual freedom gives her the courage to seek a divorce.
“The audience will root for her,” Noone says. “They’ll say, ‘Get out, be free.’ And afterward, I’ll take the carpet out from under them, and they’ll ask, ‘Did she do the right thing?’”
Little Black Dress is more than a sexy title; its symbolism embodies a world far beyond Amy’s reach. “Although to some it is conservative,” she says, holding up a photo of a Marc Jacobs dress, “this is an image that includes all the events I’ve never been to, all the people I’ve never met, and all the appetizers I’ve never eaten.”
Noone, a graduate of the GRS Creative Writing Program, made his mark in Boston with his Baile trilogy (The Lepers of Baile Baiste, The Blowin of Baile Gall, and Gigolo Confessions of Baile Breag), steeped in contemporary Irish culture. But like Noone himself, his plays have migrated; The Atheist, Brendan, and now Little Black Dress all take place in the United States. His plays have won several awards, among them Elliot Norton awards and Kennedy Center honors.
Noone finds the American idiom challenging. “The vocabulary, the syntax, the colloquialisms — you have to measure them completely,” he says. “Before I was much more relaxed and could be my voluble Irish self. Now I have to check myself before I open an American’s mouth.”
With that discipline comes comprehension. “I’m learning to understand America by writing American plays,” he says.
Little Black Dress opens tonight at 7:30 p.m., and runs Thursdays through Sundays at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave., through Saturday, October 24. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $25 for seniors, $10 for students (ID required) and may be purchased online, by phone at 866-811-4111, or in person at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Wear a little black dress to the show and receive $5 off. For more information, call 617-353-5443.
Vicky Waltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.