There was no way the members of An Beal Bocht Cafe’s new theater company could get away with putting on the poor mouth on Oct 28.
The show was sold out. The place was packed.
An Beal Bocht is not only the title of a somewhat-obscure 1941 novel by Flann O’Brien, translated from Irish it means “the poor mouth,” which comes from the Gaelic expression “Putting on the pour mouth” — to pretend things are worse off than they are as a defense or an excuse.
But the pub/cafe on West 238th Street that bears the name was the site of applause and bunches of flowers last week, as the aptly-named Poor Mouth Theatre Company presented Puttin’ on Your Shorts 2, five short plays with actors and playwrights from Riverdale.
The upper level of An Beal Bocht Cafe was closed off from the bar and only accessible from the second entrance outside. It was manned by Pat Gilheany, who was in the unfortunate position of having to tell people their only choice was the waiting list or taking comfort at the bar.
In March, the Poor Mouth Theatre Company debuted at An Beal Bocht on the tiny stage built specifically for the group, founded by Colin Broderick, Don Creedon and Stephen Smallhorne, with the first production of Puttin’ On Your Shorts. Mr. Creedon’s Guy Walks Into a Bar soon followed and won the Audience Award at the 1st Irish Theatre Festival, held across New York City from Sept. 7 to Oct. 4.
Last week, the first short, Everything Must Go — written and acted in by Jamie Budge Gehman, and directed by author Mr. Broderick — portrayed a husband and wife on the verge of divorce holding a garage sale. Like many of the evening’s shorts, it presented a serious theme in a comedic light.
“I hope you’re happy with the Irish treasure you just got of the price of an Irish breakfast!” yelled Jim, played by Gordon Tashjian, to a customer buying a vase that reminded him of happier days with his wife.
Chris Campion’s one-man show, Untitled Monologue, a humorous, absurd story, told the tale of one man’s journey from rock star dreams to a more sobering reality of splitting up a fight on the street between his neighbor and a passerby who didn’t like that he was selling chocolate chip cookies for diabetes.
Scott Kennedy’s Bill’s Arc depicted a group of playwrights, workshopping each other’s writing. It began with Bill reading the last line of his play and sitting down satisfied before other members berated him for his “sick and vile” manuscript that featured goats, pool sticks and toll booth clerks.
Bill Rutkoski’s one-man show, Christ is the Answer … But What’s the Question? involved his singing and telling stories about the character’s lifelong interest in religion. Mr. Rutksoki had trouble keeping a straight face when crooning about Jesus not liking him and being beaten by Sister Mary Beatem in Catholic school, but it was all in character.
The final play, The Big Five O, was written by former Riverdalian Janice Young, who teaches high school English in Yonkers, N.Y. and runs her school’s drama club. The piece, about a group of men unable to speak their true feelings to one another while dealing with middle age problems, was based on An Beal Bocht regulars. Ms. Young wrote it specifically to be performed there.
Her mouth was turned up into a smile by the end of the night.
“It’s the first play I’ve done with adults in it and I can’t tell you how satisfying it was. It was like Christmas in October,” she said after the show.