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CAST BRINGS PASSION TO IRISH REVENGERS' TALE.

Byline: Julio Martinez Correspondent

AT THE OPENING of Irish-born playwright Ronan Noone's ``The Lepers of Baile Baiste,'' local village priest Father John Gannon (Weston L. Nathanson) delivers a sermon that likens sin to leprosy, and warns of its insidious contamination and eventual rotting of the soul. Noone then focuses his attention on six young men of the village, a wrenching examination of their current dysfunctional lives, inexorably shaped by the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of a Christian Brother during their early teens.

Noone penned the play while attending the Graduate Playwrighting Program at Boston University and was accorded the 2002 Kennedy Center American Theatre Festival Student Playwrighting Award. Although the work suffers from a callow predictability, it is rescued by the insightful, thoroughly committed portrayals of the eight-member Celtic Arts Center Ensemble.

Director Pascal Marcotte ably guides this all-male cast through the murky rounds of soul-searching and recriminations that follow an all-too-linear thematic path as each of these tortured characters struggles to find a reason to stay alive. Set primarily in the seedy local bar in the town of Baile Baiste, the action initially establishes the nightly imbibing rituals of three local lads, evilly playful Laddeen (Jason

Michael Toner), catatonically depressed Clown (Keith Blaney) and ladies man Yowsa (Dan Conroy). Their actions are only slightly moderated by much-put-upon barkeep Kellogg (Joe Gibson), who spends most of his time keeping a baleful eye on the pub's constant besotted resident, the potentially dangerously demented Seaneen (Michael Earl Reid).

The playwright's agenda moves forward with the return from England of former classmate Daithi (Tripp Pickell), who has come back to town to force a confrontation with the priest who tolerated their abuse and to secure the whereabouts of the offending deviate, their former teacher Brother Angelus. Much talked about but unseen is another childhood pal who has just returned from the madhouse, where he was placed after attacking his own father, the local police Sergeant (Christopher Carroll).

Using Daithi's manic determination as a springboard to revelation, Noone's script doggedly burrows into the lifelong sense of violation each of these men has suffered. This exercise in thematic persistence would have even more impact if balanced by some much-needed subplot. It is to the ensemble's credit that the final emotional explosion that envelops these crippled souls is as palpable as the evil that was committed against them.

``The Lepers of Baile Baiste'' is the first of a trilogy. Here's hoping the second script, ``The Blowing of Baile Gall,'' will demonstrate the growing maturation of this developing playwright.

THE LEPERS OF BAILE BAISTE - Two and one half stars

Where: The Celtic Arts Center, 4843 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Studio City.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; through Nov. 22.

Tickets: $12 to $15. Call (818) 760-8322.

In a nutshell: A dynamic, emotion-charged ensemble injects needed veracity to student playwright Roman Noone's earnest but flawed work.
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Title Annotation:Review; U
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 14, 2003
Words:486
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