Years ago I saw James McLindon’s “bar” play, DISTANT MUSIC, performed in an actual bar---with noisy patrons, flowing Guinness and far more distractions than a play ought to have. Although the gimmick was clever, you couldn’t get the full measure of the script.
This time out the Stoneham Theatre does McLindon proud, with a purely theatrical outing, smartly directed by Weylin Symes on a stage (where it really belongs) with a gorgeous mahogany bar set, designed by Jenna McFarland Lord. McLindon’s characters bare their souls, philosophize about life and struggle to adjust to change. Michael Ryan Buckley has the plum role of the transplanted Irishman who runs the local Cambridge pub and overhears each and every conversation. Buckley regales us even before the show starts, with a nifty standup routine instructing us about the exits and other necessities. He’s a hoot.
McLindon has created charming characters, hilarious dialogue and thoughtful subjects for rumination, like the persistence (not to mention the illusion) of memory and the power of faith. The disillusioned middle aged lawyer (Thomas Rhett Kee) sees the landmark discrimination laws he fought for back in the day now being overturned. (How prescient of Stoneham to run DISTANT MUSIC just as the Voting Rights Act is being challenged in the Supreme Court!)
His long time friend sees women’s rights falling by the wayside. And should anyone stick with the Catholic Church these days? Now there’s a topic! (How could Stoneham have known the Church would be thrown into crisis this very week with the election of a new Pope?) Needless to say, DISTANT MUSIC resonates like gangbusters.
The irrepressible barkeep says there’s nothing better in life than a good argument. There is one thing better: A crackerjack play about it!