FALLING UPWARD: OR, TO EIRE IS HUMAN, TO FORBID
DIVINE AT THEATRE WEST
By Mark Share
Irish evening of brogues without the sadness, drink
without disease, and Anglo-Irish relations without
the troubles, that is what Ray Bradbury delights
the audience with in his tales from a misty pub
in the hinterlands of the distant isle. Bradbury,
best known for his cautionary FARHEINHEIT 451 and
for science fiction and supernatural tales, like
THE ILLUSTRATED MAN collection, creates a loving
postcard from his year in Ireland 50 years ago.
There are songs beautifully sung and stories stirringly
told. Representatives of the whole town, from the
Lord to the idiot, the priest and the doctor, and
all the commoners make their way to Heeber Finn's
bar, one of 17 pubs in this town of a thousand.
large cast appears remarkably at ease, from the
songs and patter that greet the audience before
the show and through a series of scenes from a village
that comprise Act I and the one act about gay-Irish
relations of all things - that is Act II. The scene
that concludes Act I, concerning the funeral of
the local Lord, rises to the best of Bradbury's
work in its suspenseful presentation of ordinary
people faced with a situation that threatens to
take them out of their humanity and ends with a
twist one of Bradbury's most clever that is both
happy and awful at the same time. Throughout, the
language is as rich as one would hope and expect
in a play celebrating all things Irish; we are told
that in the history of Heeber Finn's bar, George
Bernard Shaw and Norman Mailer have been kicked
out for not talking enough.
will be pleased to see Pat Harrington, the veteran
and awarded actor who is best known from TV's ONE
DAY AT A TIME, as the pub denizen who can speak
to the audience. Other standouts include Mik Scriba
as Heeber Finn, shepherding his patrons through
the turns of their lives as an "annex to the
Church," and Walter Beery as Father Leary mixing
the proper proportions of dominance, warmth, and
provincialism. (There are no women in the pub.)
opening night, Ray Bradbury himself was present
for his 87th birthday. An icon who has made LA his
home while never learning to drive, and who is a
charming and disarming public speaker, told the
audience to applauded agreement that theater is
better than movies, because in movies all they care
about is getting money, and in the theater all we
care about is getting love. Bradbury and the company,
under Tim Byron Owen's fluid direction, bestows
an abundance of love through the script and the
performances, and the audience's endless laughter
and clapping showed that the love was received and
1956, director John Huston dispatched a sci-fi scribbler
and teleplay writer in his mid-thirties to Ireland
to write a screenplay adapting Herman Melville’s
immortal classic Moby Dick. It should be noted that
the great American novel is mostly set in the South
Seas, but Huston’s attachment to Ireland probably
accounts for shooting much of his Moby Dick there.
(And of course, the best way to travel and/or live
abroad is at somebody else’s expense –
preferably a movie studio’s.)
had led much of Hollywood’s resistance to
the gathering House Un-American Activities Committee
inquisition of La-La-Land leftists and the looming
blacklist exactly 60 years, and I venture to guess
that this contributed to Huston’s self-imposed
exile in the Emerald Isle. And with its mention
of Bikini atoll – which, if memory serves,
Melville does not refer to in his 1851 novel --
Huston’s Moby Dick was a comment on the Cold
War, with Ahab’s (portrayed with much gusto
by Gregory Peck) unholy obsession with the great
white whale symbolizing nuclear testing.
any case, Huston’s last directorial effort,
his 1987 adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead,
was the final story in Joyce’s Dubliners.
And the first full-length play by Ray Bradbury --
that science fiction and TV writer Huston had imported
(quite against his will) to Ireland in the mid-1950s
– is likewise set in the Emerald Isle. At
the September 7 premiere of Falling Upward, Bradbury
told a packed crowd at Theatre West near Universal
City that this play grew out of his sojourn to Ireland.
Calling himself “Sean O’Casey’s
bastard son,” Bradbury revealed how that playwright,
Oscar Wilde, the celebrated Abbey Theatre (during
the 1930s the Abbey Players included a boy wonder
by the name of Orson Welles) and Irish pub culture
Upward’s colorful cast of characters, Dubliners
are city slickers. The cosmos of these boyos extends
no farther than the village green of their County
Kilcock township, and most of the play’s action
takes place in a public house. Heeber Finn’s
pub is to this play what the Mississippi River is
to Huck Finn. I’ve never been to Ireland (I
guess I just don’t have the luck of the Irish),
but Jeff Rack’s convincing set design literally
sets the stage with a convincing rendering of what
I’d imagine an Emerald Isle pub looks like,
down to the pheasant trophy adorning a wall. The
all male cast’s singing and musical interlude
preceding the curtain’s figurative rise certainly
sets the mood – talk about “getting
into character”! (Infinitely superior to the
endless commercials ticket buyers “pay”
for and are bombarded with at movie theatres. As
Bradbury observed at the premiere: “Theatre
is better than films. Film people want money. I
don’t want money, I want love.”)
narrator Garrity’s (Emmy and Golden Globe
veteran Pat Harrington), who has been kissed by
the Blarney stone, opens Falling Upward with witty,
pithy observations about the foibles of his countrymen
and pub-mates. There is much clever banter in brogues
as the towering Finn (I kid thee not dear reader,
this prototypical Irishman is actually portrayed
by a TV/theatre actor named Mik (Mik Scribay) serves
up foamy brewskies and the harder stuff to the boyos.
There is some action involving an accident, the
police and a quite clever close to the first act,
as the boyos devise a hilariously brilliant scheme
to consume rare vintage wines that somehow manages
to fulfill the stipulations of a townsman’s
a renowned author of sci-fi, act two seems to fall
from outer space – it is almost a completely
different play, albeit with many of the same characters.
As the second act begins, an entourage of sissy,
swishy swashbuckling tourists from Sicily descend
upon County Kilcock and take up dubious residence
en suite at the village inn, which I believe is
called the Royal Hyperion Hotel. The multi-culti
effeminate travelers clad in kaftans, dashikis and
berets are led with great panache by David Snell-Orkney
(theatre thespian James Horan), and seem headed
on a collision course with the macho denizens of
Heeber Finn’s. Like Bradbury’s The Martian
Chronicles, Upwards features culture clash. But
the wise and wizened Garrity intervenes, pointing
out to the pub’s all-male bonding group the
similarities between the boyos and their apparently
adapted Melville’s novel featuring the harpooning
of a whale named Moby Dick, while his Upward is
set in a place named Kilcock. There is a heavy dose
of homoeroticism in this tale brought to life by
an all-male cast of more than 20 actors. Written
more than 40 years ago, despite some limp-wrist,
“fairy” stereotyping, Bradbury may have
been way ahead of his time in tackling this subject
in the Irish Chronicles.
enjoyed the wit and wisdom, as well as its music
and dancing, of Falling Upward, which is deftly
directed by Tim Byron Owen. The cast is quite good,
but too large to mention all of its members here,
although I’d like to single out the aptly
named Walter Beery as Father Leary, who -- like
his pub-besotted parishioners -- enjoys imbibing.
the Theatre West space somewhat undoes the play.
The theatre was quite stuffy, and had this production
taken place during L.A.’s recent heat wave,
I fear the temperature would have suggested the
title of Bradbury’s most famous work, Fahrenheit
451 – the temperature books melt at. In addition,
some attendees at the premiere groused that it was
hard to hear and follow the dialogue (rendered largely
in brogues), so I suggest sitting near the front
as I did in this open seating theatre, where I didn’t
have this problem.
the curtain call, a certificate of recognition by
Mayor Villaraigosa was read by a Theatre West producer
to Bradbury and the appreciative crowd. As it was
recently the author's 87th birthday – around
one year for every two seats in the theatre –
the crowd sang “Happy Birthday,” and
a reception featuring a sumptuous feast ensued.
The wheelchair-bound Bradbury signed copies of his
latest book, Now and Forever.
you – and the public – enjoy at least
another 87 years of your vivid imagination, Ray!
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Week of September 10th, 2007
Vol. 12-No. 37
West presents the return of Ray Bradbury's FALLING
UPWARD, or "To Eire is Human, To Forbid Divine",
a comedy of the ins and outs taking place at a local
"public house" located in a small Irish
setting is Heeber Finn's Pub, located in County
Kilcock. There, one will find a group of the regular
gents that frequent the place, almost making this
establishment a second home to all that stay. Pat
Harrington plays Garrity, the leader of the pack.
Actually, nobody really made him a leader, but it
just seems that way. He narrates some of the little
misadventures that go on in and around the tavern.
Of course, every one of these working class lads
must have a nip or two, just for that good Irish
This charming tale, first presented at Theatre West
in 2001, is Ray's loving tribute to the Emerald
Isle; a place he visited and lived in while writing
the screenplay for John Houston's epic film Moby
Dick in the early 1950's. The passion of Ireland
never left him and still speaks about this land
as if it was an old friend. Although there isn't
a plot per se, consisting of a few short stories
woven in, it makes this production that is green
as the mother country, and black as a tall glass
of Guiness. In other words, it's very "colorful",
it's full of wit, charm, and has plenty of life-now
and for the hereafter!
A huge ensemble cast makes up this production, featuring
(in alphabetical order), Atotesfaye Abdu-Hakim,
Abbott Alxander, Walter Beery, David Evans Brant,
William Brunold, Roger Cruz, Tom Debone, Donald
Giddings, Michael Gough, Austin Grehan, Matthew
Hoffman, James Horan, Michael Lagrias, Robert W.
Laur, Timothy Martin, Donald Moore, Ken O'Malley,
Christian Reeve, Christian Rozak, Mik Scriba, and
Phillip Sokoloff. All perform under the stage direction
by Tim Bryon Owen.
Also a special note to Jeff Rack's set design, based
on a design by Daniel Keough and Joseph A. Altadonna,
that makes up Hebber Finn's pub, bring the scene
and setting as cozy and warm as the play itself.
experiencing FALLING UPWARD, one will wish that
they too were Irish! Even if one really had a li'l
Irish in 'em, that is all the better! Another round
is ready and waiting!
Review by Carol Kaufman Segal
Or, "To Eire is Human, To Forbid Divine"
West in Los Angeles celebrated the award-winning
playwright Ray Bradbury’s 87th birthday Sept.
7th, with the opening of his play, Falling Upward.
Truthfully, the play is about nothing, but it has
so much charm, who cares? It takes place in Ireland
in the 1950’s where we find a gathering of
men sitting around Heeber Finn’s Pub singing
Irish songs and telling stories. We become involved
as Garrity (Pat Harrington) speaks directly to the
audience. He tells us that "we are in a place
where anything can happen, and it always does."
But nothing ever really happens in this play. It
is just good fun because the actors are so at home
in their characterizations, there is humor in the
production and it is just plain good entertainment.
Scriba, as Heeber Finn, is the ideal Irish bartender
and Harrington is the ultimate audience confidante.
The entire company is perfectly cast, each one very
realistic, as they delight us with their perfect
Irish brogues, their singing of Irish folk tunes,
and even a wee bit of an Irish jig. They include
Abbott Alexander, Walter Beery, David Evans Brandt,
William Brunold, Roger Cruz, Tom Debone, Michael
Gough, Austin Grehan, Matthew Hoffman, James Horan,
Robert W. Laur, Donald Moore, Ken O’Malley,
Matt Sklar, Phil Sokoloff and Timothy Martin.
village is visited by a group of men who appear
completely out-of-place with the men who frequent
the pub. At first, the Irish do not make them feel
welcome, but eventually, they discover that they
have much in common, and before the visitors leave,
they are treated in a friendly manner and bid a
fond farewell. These actors include Atotesfaye Abdu-Hakim,
Donald E. Giddings, Michael Lagrinas, Christian
Reeve and Christian Rozakis.
Upward is directed by Tim Byron Owen, produced by
Charlie Mount. The pub set, by Jeff Rack, is absolutely
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West member and playwright Ray Bradbury was honored
this spring with a Special Award from the Pulitzer
organization (For details, go to www.pulitzer.org)
. Now, in celebration, Theatre West is reviving
its Pulitzer honoree"s comedy "Falling
Upward." Last produced by Theatre West in 2001,
it moved from there to the Falcon Theatre, where
it set then-records at the box office.
decades ago, Ray spent nine months in Ireland working
on the screenplay for "Moby Dick" for
director John Huston. Ray"s nights were spent
soaking up the local pub culture. Upon returning
to America, he was moved to write about the characters
he met at his favorite pub, which became the impetus
for his book "Green Shadows, White Whale,"
and later the play, which debuted in 1988 at the
Upward" relates the adventures of the regulars
at Heeber Finn"s pub in County Kilcock. The
boyos field an entry in a sprinting competition,
assist the victim of a traffic collision, scheme
to gain control of the contents of a celebrated
wine cellar, confront a small but somewhat flamboyant
band of travelers arriving from Sicily (with whom
they are brought to understand that they share more
similarities than differences), and generally enjoy
the unique fellowship that a pub in Ireland facilitates.
boyos are generally working-class fellows (who seem
to have lots of time to spend at the pub), and defer
to Finn, who has provided this haven for them. Their
spiritual advisor is Father Leary, who occasionally
stops in for a nip. They have an unofficial leader,
this new production, Garrity is portrayed by Pat
Harrington, Jr. The star of Broadway, movies and
regional theatre is best known and loved by millions
for his comic creations on television, including
Dwayne Schneider on "One Day At A Time"
and Guido Panzini on "The Jack Paar Show"
(57 guest appearances). He was also a regular with
Steve Allen, "The Danny Thomas Show" and
"Owen Marshall: Counselor At Law." His
films include "Easy Come, Easy Go" (with
Elvis), "Move, Over, Darling," "The
President"s Analyst" and "The Candidate."
His L.A. theatre credits include "The House
of Blue Leaves," "Love Letters,"
"Blackout," "The Pajama Game,"
and at Theatre West, "Harrington and Storm."
He is the recipient of the Emmy®, Golden Globe
and Drama-Logue Awards.
Also in the new cast of "Falling Upward"
will be Abbott Alexander, Walter Beery, Roger Cruz,
Matthew Hoffman, Robert W. Laur, Donald Moore, Matt
Ritchey and Philip Sokoloff.
Byron Owen directs. He promises a fresh perspective
for "Falling Upward" as the first Irishman
to direct this play, which Bradbury subtitled "To
Eire Is Human, To Forbid Divine," referring
to it as "a comedic Irish fable."
is a founding member and former board president
of The Celtic Arts Center Theater. He directed the
acclaimed "Runt" with Michael Philip Edwards,
lauded in L.A. and a prize-winner in Edinburgh.
Tim also helmed the international hit "A Night
In November," which played locally at Celtic
Arts Center and the Falcon Theatre, winning its
star Marty Maguire an L.A. Drama Critics Circle
Award. Owen founded the production company Sarah
Fulton Group with Nick Cassavetes, which has produced
multiple plays and two films, the Emmy-winning "Where"s
Jo?" and "A Far Cry From a Distant Land."
Tim directed "Fighting Words," about Welsh
boxer Johnny Owen, which ran twice at the Celtic
Arts Center and also in Wales, with a feature film
about Johnny Owen in the works.
"Falling Upward" is produced by Charlie
Mount, the Producing Director of the Chestnuts Theatre
program at Theatre West for which Mr. Mount produced
the 50th anniversary production of "Requiem
For a Heavyweight," as well as the critically
acclaimed productions of "The Lion in Winter"
and "Dancing at Lughnasa."
Ray Bradbury has won many national and international
literary awards and remains one of the most popular
writers of modern times, with over 30 books and
600 short stories to his credit, as well as numerous
plays produced over a span of 43 years, some of
them produced under his own banner, Ray Bradbury"s
Pandemonium Theatre Company. Its recent "Ray
Bradbury"s Green Town" played a sold-out
engagement at Fremont Centre Theatre, and he plans
to return there this October with a new Halloween
show. Acclaimed as a master of science fiction,
he refers to himself as a writer of fantasy. His
newest book, "Now and Forever," is due
for publication on August 22, 2007, his 87th birthday.
the warmth, wit and humor of America"s beloved
storyteller with Ray Bradbury"s "Falling