The perfomance of the “Plough and the Stars” at the Alexander Kasser Theater’s Peak Performance series was electrifying, as expected. The play, written by the Irish playwright Seán O’Casey, was first performed on Feb. 8, 1926, and revolves around a bloody uprising in Ireland in the beginning of the 20th century.
The first two acts are set a few months before the unsuccessful Easter Uprising of 1916. It was an insurrection initiated by Irish republicans who tried to get their independence from the United Kingdom. The last two acts take place during the uprising, when the British used artillery and heavy machine guns, often mistakenly, against civilians.
The storyline focuses on everyday people in Dublin living their lives in uncertainty in the face of the rising tensions between the Irish cilvilians and the Birtish rulers.
The first two acts incorporated comedic relief, which made the complicated relationships between the characters even more believable and the family members and friends more likeable. One character who provided comedy to the overall dramatic play was Young Covey, a young Communist who isn’t taken seriously by his friends and family members, but who makes jokes on behalf of an old labourer for being too old-fashioned.
One of the most heart-wrenching moments of the play was when Jack Clitheroe, a soldier of the Irish Citizen Army, leaves his wife Nora Clitheroe to fight alongside his men. A few weeks before, Nora received a letter stating that Jack had been promoted to commandant. She burned the letter to stop Jack from leaving her.
One day when they are getting intimate with each other Captain Brennan, one of Jack’s men, knocks on their door and asks for “Commandant Clitheroe.” Jack immediately gets dressed to join his men. Nora, not knowing how else to respond, gives Jack an ultimatium: it’s either her or his men.
The show was at times hard to follow due to the thick Irish accents of characters throughout the play. It, however, never took away from the drama and the pain that the characters were going through.
“The Plough and the Stars” gives audiences a better understanding of what the Easter Uprising of 1916 was like and what the uprising meant for average people.