This Weekend: Recommended
On April 11, 1986, English teacher Brian Keenan, a native of Northern Ireland, was abducted on his way to work at the American University of Beirut. The group Islamic Jihad held him in isolation and complete darkness in a cell infested with cockroaches and rats. All his clothes and personal belongings were taken from him and he was forced to wear a blindfold and a pair of shorts. One meal a day of rice, vegetables, and bread were shoved under the door. After that initial period, he was joined by British journalist John McCarthy, captured just a week after him.
Both men were eventually released–Keenan after 4 ½ years, McCarthy after 5– and wrote a book together, “Between Extremes. “ Their story so intrigued Donegal playwright Frank McGuinness that he met with Keenan. Those conversations inspired the much lauded McGuinness write the play “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me,” the story–both funny and moving–of an American doctor, an English academic, and an Irish journalist who are held hostage in a Lebanese prison.
You can see the play, which debuted in Dublin in 1992, this weekend at Villanova University as part of Villanova’s “Springtime in Ireland” Irish Festival. It’s directed by the Rev. David Cregan, OSA, and stars Villanova theater grad Nick Falco and current graduate students Chris Braak and Andrew Smalley.
Rev. Cregan, who has studied McGuinness’s work extensively and published articles on the playwright, says “what I find so compelling about this play is its honesty. It examines a very difficult human experience without feeling the need to make over political statements. McGuinness simply presents three very real, very human characters who rely on each other to make an untenable situation livable. The result is a powerful and still-relevant play.”
Rev. Cregan is an assistant professor in the Villanova University theater department and spent four years as a professional actor in New York City, where he did three national tours, an off-Broadway production with the Light Opera of Manhattan, and various regional work. He earned his doctorate from the Samuel Beckett School of Drama at Trinity College in Ireland.
McGuinness, born in Buncrana, has been awarded the London Evening Standard’s Most Promising Playwright Award, the Irish-American Literary Prize, and a Fringe First Award. He was also nominated for a Tony for Best Play in 1993 for “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.”
The play runs Friday, April 27, and Saturday April 28, at 8 pm, and Sunday, April 29, at 2 pm in Vasey Hall on the Villanova University Campus. Tickets are $15 and may be ordered by calling the Villanova Theater Box Office at 610-519-7474.