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This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on October 28, 1998. All rights reserved.
Review: `A Night in November'
Kenneth Norman McCallister, a 34-year-old Belfast Protestant, checks for explosive devices in his car. It's a way of life for this clerk who works in a government welfare office. But so is his hatred for the Catholic Irish. In keeping with his deeply ingrained feelings, McAllister does not hide his disdain for needy Roman Catholics who come to his office for help. "I've spent 15 years never looking into the eyes of the people," says the callous civil servant, who also gloats to Gerry, his Catholic supervisor and golfing buddy, of his newly attained membership in an "exclusive" (no-Catholics) golf club.
While attending a local soccer match between the north and the south in the company of his 65-year-old, chain-smoking father-in-law, McAllister sees his bigotry reaching catastrophic proportions. This game will determine which team will play in the 1994 World Cup competition to be held in New York, even as it becomes the catalyst that will force McAllister to rediscover himself.
"How could I look back on my life in one night," says McAllister, recalling the horror of the match during which he prompts a rowdy crowd to vent their hatred of the Republic of Ireland, as well voice their bigotry toward the team's black players.
In Marie Jones' scalding, funny, and compassionate play "A Night In November," McAllister affects a dramatic change of heart and habit from being an admittedly "soulless little man, an asshole for 34 years." In the process of becoming a new "Irish Man," McAllister takes a big risk: venturing into the Catholic ghetto to visit the home of his friend Gerry. There are plenty of laughs as McCallister relates the differences between his life as one of "the perfect Protestants," and the seemingly disorganized life style of his friend Gerry and his wife who has left him a note, "I've taken the kids to the pictures. Make your own dinner."
The most amazing aspect of this trenchant and exciting play is that one extraordinary actor -- Dan Gordon -- plays McAllister and all the other roles. These include his complaisant wife Deborah, their small children, their shallow unsympathetic circle of friends, a trio of racy women, humorous airline personnel, and some feisty New York cops.
We don't get more from designer Robert Ballagh's setting than the cleverness of tri-color three-step bleachers. But they perfectly serve the play's needs and the needs of Gordon's sturdy frame has he changes from a sport coat, tie, and slacks to a riotously funny soccer player's outfit. Under Pam Brighton's direction, Gordon breathes a revitalizing freshness into the too often foul and fossilized life of McAllister's homeland.
Even as he is accused by his friends of "being brainwashed by the Catholics," the anguished and impetuous McAllister takes the offense. Appalled by his behavior, he sells his golf clubs and clearly begins his transformation in preparation for his temporary escape to New York. There is something quite thrilling about the way McAllister turns the rousing chant he learns at the airport from other fans, "Ole Ole Ole, we're on our way to the U.S.A.," into a transporting mantra. Hurrah to the triumvirate of Jones, Gordon, and Brighton who have succeeded in creating another path to peace: one that goes beyond the limits of politics, religion, and society. HHH
-- Simon Saltzman
The key: HHHH Don't miss; HHH You won't feel cheated; HH Maybe you should have stayed home; H Don't blame us.
-- Simon Saltzman
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