The Ferryman at New Village Arts – An Astounding Experience

They say that all politics is local, and this magnificent play drives home the point without ever mentioning the concept.

Set in the early 1980s in a relatively unnamed town somewhere in Ireland during The Troubles, a large family is about to celebrate the bringing of the harvest. But a sad incident from years before begins to bubble to the surface and finally explodes. By the end of the play the incident may have been resolved for the moment, but we are left deeply pondering the broader implications.

Jez Butterworth has penned one of the most magnificent plays I have ever seen. Prior to this intimate production, The Ferryman has only been performed on Broadway and in its London debut, where I was fortunate to see it several years ago. I was staggered then by the artistry of the script and the delivery by the cast, and I was able to revisit that experience improbably in Carlsbad the other night.

The stage set instead of looking down the length of the kitchen is instead looking across the breadth of the kitchen, which provides a better space for the 20+ actors to interact.

The story opens with a small exchange on the corner of the stage, somewhat reminiscent of the knee plays from another culture. When the curtain fully opens, we are thereafter spellbound watching the 3+ hours unfold in the kitchen of the Quinn family.

Kristianne Kurner directs the proceedings with a deft and confident hand. Thomas Edward Daugherty portrays the patriarch of the family with a perfect blend of tenderness and firmness. His relationship with his sister-in-law Caitlin (Joy Yvonne Jones) is at the core of the play. Both actors have children in the production, solidifying the familial rapport. Layth Haddad explodes across a range of emotions as cousin Shane. A shout out to Lena Palke, who plays the puckish youngest daughter Honor Carney.

Thomas Edward Daugherty
Joy Yvonne Jones
Layth Haddad

The judicious use of several music choices is perfect: “Street Fighting Man” will have an immediate resonance, and a lingering effect long after the play ends. “Teenage Kicks” offers a knees-up bit of comedic relief and a Cranberries tune comes roaring at you as the curtain falls.

The lighting (by Annelise Justus) is evocative, especially as Aunt Maggie Faraway comes and goes.

As the inaugural production at the New Village Arts, The Ferryman sets the stage and the bar very high.

Do yourself a favor and find a ticket to this stunning production.

The Ferryman runs through March 5. Ticket information here.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.