Susan McConnell, left, and Claran Crawford in The Blowin of Baile Gall.
Life as an outsider
Play inspired by personal experiences
By Jerry Tallmer
Eamon, an Irishman with an overload of grudges and a caustic tongue, sits on a crate at the construction site where hes employed and, at a work break, fulminates against all those feckin fugees i.e., refugees, immigrants from places like black Africa walking around our basterin town [a]nd us accommodating them with our taxes. It aint right..
Theyre not all black, says Molly, the slightly overripe but still handsome woman whom Eamon used to have a thing with, but who now favors his young fellow worker, Wild Stevee, an introspective, insecure reforming alcoholic.
Theyre all black to me, says Eamon. Ill tell you we spent eight hundred years fightin for independence, and then two years in a civil war killing ourselves because of it. I dont need no black bastards coming over here takin my job, dirtin our streets, stealin from us and sleepin with our women,
Youre some primitive, says Molly.
Primitives dont have my vocabulary, Dolleen, Eamon snaps back. And hes right. That vitriolic tongue of his is never still, never stops needling Molly, or Stevee (whom Eamon refers to as Jehovah), or G.C., the worried general contractor who is their boss and whom Eamon calls Yank for the years the man spent in the United States. Above all, Eamon has his verbal claws in Laurence, the handsome young black whom Molly has befriended and who works beside them to raise money to bring his ailing mother over from Africa.
Put these several people near one another, on and off their proprietary milk crates, give them a knife, a hammer, a sharpened trowel, some mistaken suppositions, and you have The Blowin of Baile Gall, a play by Irish-born, Boston-based 35-year-old Ronan Noone that is itself like a knife waiting, waiting, waiting to strike.
It enters previews September 8 for a Tuesday, September 13, opening under the aegis of Gabriel Byrne and the direction of David Sullivan at the Irish Arts Center on West 51st Street, hard by the Hudson River.
Blowin no apostrophe doesnt mean blowing up, or anything like that. In the west of Ireland, where playwright Noone comes from, it means something like an outsider somebody not from here. Somebody, perhaps, from Africa.
Ronan Noone, with his full head of curly black hair, and his blue-ish eyes maybe, doesnt look 35. More like 19. The reason there are so many bloody-minded Irish plays, he says, is that Ireland is such a bloody-minded place. Then he dryly appends a throwaway: Let Brian [Philadelphia Here I Come] Friel take care of the rest.
It was after a summer or two of painting houses on our own countrys Martha Vineyard that Noone went back, in 2002, for a visit to his hometown, Clifton, Ireland.
I didnt meet any people of any other nation where I grew up, he says. Its a white town.
One morning, standing at Mass, I saw this young black family, a father and his son a boy about four years of age. Not far away there was another father and son, whites, about the same age.
The black child went over to play with the white child and the white child hit him in the face. I didnt know why. Because the black child looked strange, perhaps.
Theres always the same kind of bigotry, here, there, everywhere. America more so, because its not as homogenous as Ireland. There are black immigrants all through Ireland actually,
Well, says Noone, that was the trigger. Id worked on a few building sites in my time, and I realized how people sat around on milk crates at lunch breaks and so forth. If you sat on somebody elses, they told you to get off. So these two things came together that incident in the church, and milk crates.
Ronan Noone, the son of an engineer and a mother whose job was to stay home and take care of her husband, her son, and three daughters Some job! the son murmurs in irony and awe was born April 7, 1970, in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland.
While at Galway University he started free-lancing for several small-town newspapers. (Free-lancing, says the interviewer, a mugs game. Tell me about it, Noone replies.) Came to the United States to do anything but journalism and found himself bartending and writing poetry ( twas doggerel) on Marthas Vineyard.
Wrote a play, The Lepers of Baile Baiste; submitted it to Boston Universitys MFA program, where it came to the attention of Kate Snodgrass and Nobel Laureate playwright Derek Walcott.
They liked it and invited him into the program. Lepers won a National Student Playwriting Award and was done at the Kennedy Center in Washington. No, Noone wasnt in it. I never act, but I thought I could make a career out of playwriting. Like a fool, he murmurs, then quickly tacks on: Dont have me say that.
It was published by Samuel French, and it was while all that was going on that I wrote this play, The Blowin, and another
Just kept going. Cant tell you why.
How many plays altogether so far?
Short? Long? I guess about 20.
The characters of Blowin Eamon, Molly, Stephen, G.C., Laurence, played by Colin Hamell, Susan McConnell, Ciaran Crawford, George Heflin, Ato Essandoh all came out of Noones own head.
How much of devilish Eamon is in you?
Well, they all are. Youve got a lot of time, winters on Marthas Vineyard, to create a lot of characters and sometimes its juicy to create a malignant character.
The character G.C. (General Contractor) is not malignant; if anything, he is gravely put upon as a Blowin, an outsider because of his years in the United States and, more cruelly yet, as a desperately non-drinking alcoholic.
Do you drink, Noone is asked.
He shrugs and touches his beer bottle.
Ronan Noone and his wife Jessica Roche met on Marthas Vineyard. They are the parents of 12-weeks-old Molly.
Named for the character in the play?
Maybe. I doubt it, says her father as he boldly sets forth to navigate a subway to West 50th Street in a large, strange city where there are more black and white faces than in Boston, Dublin, and Clifton, Ireland, all thrown together.