PROJECT ARTS CENTRE
Everything comes back to the piano in the corner. It's where Vincent Colgan teaches his students, one of whom is his granddaughter, Maggie. Vincent's schoolteacher son, David, could never get his head around the arrangements, but he'll eventually unlock the final clue in the puzzle.
Actually, 'puzzle' may be the wrong word. On the face of it, Ross Dungan and 15th Oak Productions' intense, often excellent Before Monsters Were Made is a complex family drama. It's also a bit of a thriller, and maybe even a murder mystery.
It's 1960s rural Ireland, and the death of a local schoolgirl has sent shockwaves through the town. The tragedy may be closer to home than David is willing to admit. After all, he and his family have always been at the centre of gossip.
His marriage to Abigail is crumbling - the late-night arguments tell us that much. A birthday dinner for Vincent (the superlative Lorcan Cranitch), in which we meet his fumbling Garda son, Graham (Manus Halligan providing occasional comic relief), and Vincent's much younger wife, Jackie (a solid Janice Byrne), reignites rumours of Vincent's suspicious past.
Abigail (a tense Orla Fitzgerald) doesn't trust her father-in-law.
We have good reason to believe that he may, in fact, be guilty. Of what, however, we're not entirely sure. When Maggie goes missing, the pot comes off the boil. Enclosed in a circular dining area, surrounded by gravel and dirt, Before Monsters Were Made reaches far above its station with confusing flashbacks, flash-forwards and intricate plot twists. It doesn't know where to end, either.
Despite its flaws, however, it remains a hypnotic theatrical display, with the increasingly watchable Peter Coonan (David) at its centre. A strong and compelling stage actor, Coonan is in outstanding company. It's a dark premise, and a rather jumbled one at that, but even the most complicated, long-winded scripts can be forgiven when you've got a stellar cast out in front. Running until May 16. HHHII