A Statue for Ballybunion
San Jose Playhouse
It is January 1998; and after deadly decades of “The Troubles,” the prospects for peace in Ireland are looking better than ever, with much help coming from the Leader of the Free World, President Bill Clinton. But on the craggy, western shores of Kerry County, things are not looking so rosy for the small town of Ballybunion. The local castle ruin and symbol of the town is crumbling to pieces; the foreign tourists no longer are coming to play golf; and the bankers are calling for payments on the mostly broke town’s outstanding loans. To make matters worse, the younger generation is moving to Dublin and beyond in droves. For months the Ballybunion Improvement Committee has been meeting in Costello’s Public House & Pub; but no matter how many whiskeys and Guinness’s are downed, no idea for saving the town has emerged, and members time and again leave pissed – in more ways than one. But then after one final meeting, a booze-inspired, luck-of-the-Irish idea emerges: Erect a statue to the great Peacemaker, Bill Clinton, and convince him to come to Ballybunion for its unveiling.
Following its pre-pandemic world premiere in Dublin, Ireland, San Jose Playhouse presents the U.S. premiere of A Statue for Ballybunion, a delightfully quirky comedy packed full of both Irish humor and pathos, written by former mayor of San Jose and now newspaper columnist and author of numerous books, Tom McEnery According to program notes by the playwright himself, “Almost every major event [accounted in the play] is just as it actually happened in that fateful year, on that very day and all the astounding events leading up to it.”
How an eclectic group of the townspeople pulls off the impossible becomes a story that smacks of the kind of fiction that an evening of downing pints in the pub might produce; but in this case, fact is much stranger than any fictional tale could ever be. And in true Irish tradition, the real story is a whopper that is full of comic twists and turns and near tragedies galore and also populated with an endearing group of unorthodox, local characters. All adds up to an intriguing, highly entertaining true tale that is at its heart, a playwright’s love story to the homeland of his own immigrating grandparents.
Please continue to Talkin’ Broadway for the rest of my review.
Rating: 4 E
A Statue for Ballybunion continues through March 26, 2023, in production by San Jose Playhouse (in conjunction with Kilnasheen Productions and Guggenheim Entertainment, Inc.) at 3Below Theatres, 288 S. 2nd Street, San Jose, CA. Tickets are available online at https://sanjoseplayhouse.org/ .
Photo Credit: San Jose Playhouse