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Maz and Bricks

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - January 12, 2020

Eva O'Connor and Ciaran O'Brien
Photo by Lunaria
Maz and Bricks, an 80-minute two-hander by Irish playwright and actress Eva O'Connor, opening today as part of Origin's 1st Irish Festival at 59E59 Theaters, draws from many styles to paint a portrait of two strangers with seemingly little in common who spend a day together rambling through the streets of Dublin. Owing to the many local references and a heavy sprinkling of slang, you may be a little fuzzy on the details at times, but what emerges is a quirky yet moving story about the vulnerability of the human heart and the universal need for connection.

In the parlance of a romantic comedy, Maz (Ms. O'Connor) and Bricks (Ciaran O'Brien) "meet cute" aboard a crowded tram on their way into Dublin. New York commuters will immediately recognize the character of Bricks, a self-absorbed lout gleefully carrying on a loud, obscenity-laden cell phone call in which he is boasting to a pal about a sexual encounter from the night before. Sitting opposite, trying to ignore him and focusing her attention on something she is drawing on her sketch pad, is Maz.

Given his puffed-up ego, it's not surprising that Bricks assumes Maz is drawing him, and he pauses his conversation to address her: "I've an awful unsymmetrical face, love; can you make my lazy eye behave itself?" But Maz is not, of course, drawing Bricks, as we soon learn. What she is doing is making a sign to carry in a pro-choice march to be held just prior to a vote to repeal Ireland's anti-abortion law.

What emerges from this set-up is not nearly so predictable as you might imagine. When they leave the train, Maz and Bricks go off on separate errands until fate or coincidence brings them back together. What follows is an ambling journey, in which the fronts with which they face the world (her militant seriousness and his overbearing if charming flirtiness) begin to dissolve, and we learn that both are dealing with underlying and unresolved personal pain.

Here, the play reveals a richness that one wishes were explored in greater depth. Maz and Bricks, a production of the inventive Fishamble: The New Play Company, emerges from the realm of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and there is a certain fringy shagginess to the writing. Ms. O'Connor employs a mixture of political speechifying, romantic interactions, sharp-as-a-tack humor, and sojourns into stylized poetry that suits the character of Bricks more than it does that of Maz. These competing modes make for a bravura juggling act, but they don't always make for smooth connections across styles. Nevertheless, the performances, under Jim Culleton's direction, are quite compelling, and, even with its "work-in-progress" feel, the play presents the opportunity to observe an emerging playwright who is engaged in a quest to hone her voice.

Maz and Bricks
Through February 2, 2020
59E59 Theaters - Theater B, 59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison
Tickets online and current performance schedule: