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Made by God

Theatre Review by David Hurst - February 17, 2022

Daniel Marconi and
McKenna Quigley Harrington

Photo by Carol Rosegg
Though it's a bit rough around the edges, Ciara Ní Chuirc's Made by God is a compelling drama whose subject matter couldn't be timelier. Currently receiving its world premiere production on the Irish Repertory Theatre's intimate studio stage, Made by God also boasts a handful of thoughtful performances which make this 90-minute, intermission-less staging a provocative evening of societal and political theatre.

If you hadn't guessed from the title, Made by God's subject matter is abortion, specifically the Eighth Amendment to Ireland's constitution, which inserted a subsection recognizing the equal right to life of the pregnant woman and the unborn. The amendment, when it was passed in 1983, effectively banned abortion in the Republic of Ireland until it was repealed in a landslide referendum in 2018. These are the time periods in which Made by God is set, and it's clear from their moving notes in the program, both the playwright and director's lives were deeply affected by this divisive issue.

Ní Chuirc's play moves persuasively back and forth between 1984's true-story death of 15-year-old Ann Lovett (a thoughtful MeKenna Quigley Harrington) and her newborn baby boy at a grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary (a convincing Briana Gibson Reeves) in Granard, County Longford; and a 2018 fictional story of an American podcaster, Eva (the poised Erica Hernandez), whose interest in Ann's life and horrifying death conceals a tragic secret in her own life. Like the rest of the people in Granard, Ann's boyfriend Mikey (an excellent Daniel Marconi) had no idea she was pregnant. This is confirmed by a grown-up Michael (the superb Ciaran Byrne) whom Eva interviews at length for her podcast about Ann which will air when she returns to America. But Eva's demons get the better of her and tragedy threatens to repeat itself at the grotto despite Michael's pleas for Eva to stay away from Granard.

Economically and cleanly directed by Olivia Songer, this Irish Rep production makes a strong case for Made by God as a jumping off point for further refinement and polishing. There are some details Ní Chuirc may want to refine, such as Eva's lengthy confession to the Virgin Mary (clumsy) and the convenient arrival of Michael in Granard (contrived), but in general, the structure of the two time periods plays smartly and Songer's youthful cast bravely jumps into the story without reservation or fear. What a shame the Supreme Court of the United States can't be required to watch Made by God together as a group. Ní Chuirc would certainly win her case if they would.

Made by God
Ciara Ní Chuirc
Through February 27, 2022
Irish Repertory Theatre
W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, New York NY
Tickets online and current performance schedule: