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SEA MARKS at Irish Classical sets a high-quality mark for virtual theater, but you only have through Sunday, November 1 to view it.

The Irish Classical Theatre Company kicked off their 30th Anniversary Season by revisiting their first play as a “landed” company – SEA MARKS by Gardner McKay.  This lyrical Irish love story, presented virtually was the ICTC’s first offering twenty-seven years ago at their “new” home back then, the Calumet Theater, a former deli, on Chippewa Street (when that street was a rough and tumble “red light district”).  The play then starred two of the four ICTC co-founders, Vincent O’Neill and Josephine Hogan, and was directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti.

But times have changed.  Sort of.  In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ICTC is offering a professionally produced, fully staged performance, but one that is intended to be viewed at home.  It was filmed at ICTC’s current home, The Andrews Theatre on Main Street, in the heart of the “Theatre District” by the Buffalo-based Pan-American Film Division.  It will be available for online purchase but only through this Sunday, November 1, 2020.  Under the leadership of their new Executive Artistic Director Kate LoConti Alcocer, this is ICTC’s first digital theater performance.

And it’s a winner.

This current production stars Buffalo favorites and ICTC regulars Chris Kelly as Colm, a lonely Irish fisherman who goes to sea every day with his father, and Kristen Tripp Kelley as Timothea, a lonely farm girl from Wales who has created a new life for herself in the city with a job in publishing.  Both actors are recipients of multiple ARTIE Awards and nominations in multiple categories for productions at ICTC and across Western New York.  And fans may remember Chris and Kristen in THE SEEDBED by Bryan Delaney as well as THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE by Martin McDonagh.

Their director, Fortunato Pezzimenti came back again and along with Katie Mallinson, Dramaturg; Susan Drozd, Hair and Make-up Designer; Tom Makar, sound; Josephine Hogan, Dialect Coach; and many, many others, all “bubbled” or at least socially distanced, somehow, during production, they pulled it off.

The play uses the device of correspondence which will be familiar to fans of A.R. Gurney’s LOVE LETTERS or the movies THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) or the updated 1998 version YOU’VE GOT MAIL.  And there’s the rom com trope of the rough man and the refined lady falling in love.  So there’s not a lot of new ground here but the fun is watching how these particular two characters interact.  As the ICTC summarizes: “Living on a remote island West of Galway, Colm, a lonely fisherman, woos a woman he’s glimpsed but once at a wedding. He courts her by mail, and after a year and a half, romance blossoms, and he arrives in Liverpool. Colm aches to find connection in the arms of Timothea in this strange place she calls home; yet he longs for the sounds of the sea and for the life he has left behind.”

What’s different here is that it was filmed in a dry, empty theater, without the audience that these two stage performers are used to responding to.

Both actors are at the top of their game.  Chris Kelly makes a believable Colm, rough and brave on the outside, but lonely and a little frightened on the inside.  Kristen Tripp Kelley has always been able to convey a somewhat “superior” attitude while her character’s inner doubts are leaking all over the place.  What’s different here is that it was filmed in a dry, empty theater, without the audience that these two stage performers are used to responding to.  And yet, even with the camera shoved inches from their faces, they continue to exude the characters innermost emotions.

When you go to buy your virtual ticket, (affordably priced at $15 to $25) you’ll find that ICTC has partnered with Deaf Access Services, an affiliate of People Inc., to provide both American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreted and Open Captioning options for viewing. This is the first of such offerings in Wester New York I am told.  You will have the ability to choose one of three options:

  • Without ASL Interpretation or Closed Captioning
  • With Closed Captioning
  • With ASL Interpretation and Closed Captioning

You are encouraged to visit the website and watch a number of free videos under the umbrella of “Celtic Connections” on the “making of” the play as well as videos explaining what various theatrical production personnel (e.g. “dramaturg”) actually do. They’re fun!

SEA MARKS by Gardner McKay will be available for online viewing through Sunday, November 1.  Click here for production and ticket information.

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For over 20 years, as a producer and program host on WNED Classical (94.5 FM), he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?" These days Peter can be heard regularly on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5.

On “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take."

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he was an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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