By Wesley James
“She was more than a victim. She was a girl.”
If you're going to tell a story about the way stories are told, you’d better start by being damn sure you know how to tell a story. Daughters of Ire is bold in that way - in the same way that Shakespeare was bold. The familiar formula takes a story that is thousands of years old, and makes it modern - painfully, impossibly modern. Daughters does that well, but also decries the first tellers, the manuscripts, the heroes; the condemnation of progenitors of such a story - that is revolutionary.
Daughters of Ire follows four magnificently human medieval Irish women, glorifying a kind of childlike ideal of violence, revenge, and power without calling attention to these aspects. The play is set in a world where it's unfathomable that women couldn't have the same animalistic tendencies as men - a world generally discredited, as we all know, by most media. Daughters still volunteers a certain leeway to men, but even as it dignifies the equality of baseness between sexes, it recriminates the multitude of collaborators of female oppression. "Lest we deem these actions barbaric," the play reminds us, "spousal rape was legal in America until 1993."
Playwright and Seanchai Savanna Rae gives a voice to progress that I have never seen before. Her thunderous tongue demonstrates the power behind telling a story, and carves from the original story a vital human message. Rae is unwavering - every scene, every speech, every shift from narrator to character is perfectly broken down between past and present. The Seanchai embraces, beautifully, that exquisitely Irish laugh-through-the-parts-where-life-is-shit sense of humor. Most importantly, we lose ourselves in the stories - until it requires an interjection from the narrator to remind us that we are in fact watching a play, and not sitting at the feet of a warrior.
Daughters of Ire hits you like a splash of alcohol on a still-open wound. It will make you hurt. Better to cry than blink; You don't want to miss one second. The play is rapid, engaging, and bold. Daughters has the power to affect change - and seeing it is an experience filled with so much heart and passion that it truly could guide the next several thousand years in a brighter direction. See it early, and see it soon - as you will surely want to see it again.
Daughters of Ire from The Other Theatre Co. will run at The Side Project Theatre through September 20th. Tickets and more: www.TheOtherTheatreCompany.com.
Wesley James is a writer and actor living in Chicago.