Bostonians needn’t wait for St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate Irish culture — at least as far as Boston theater is concerned. ArtsEmerson is giving the stage to Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus as part of its ongoing Irish Festival of plays, films, and readings.
Terminus, written and directed by O’Rowe, is a dark fantasy with a sprawling setting, from Dublin to the depths of Hell. The tale unfolds through three characters — a mother and daughter with a turbulent relationship (Olwen Fouéré and Catherine Walker) and a soulless psychotic (played by Declan Conlon). Their lives progressively abandon reality as the night goes on, crossing paths with angels and demons in a dense, otherworldlynarrative.
The play is composed entirely of monologues, a method that is old hat for O’Rowe since writing his breakthrough work Howie the Rookie over a decade ago. In Terminus, he furthers his signature style by transforming the monologues into rhyming verse. In giving his words a bit of a lyrical lift, O’Rowe abandons traditional dialogue in favor of theatrical poetry.
Terminus is the latest in O’Rowe’s 16-year career as both a playwright and screenwriter. While 1999’s Howie marked his first and biggest success, he emerged on the theater scene a few years earlier as part of a movement of Irish playwrights that included the likes of Conor McPherson and Martin McDonagh (whose play The Cripple of Inishmaan played at ArtsEmerson Feb. 2-6). His peers have arguably had more success at achieving an American presence over the last decade. However, the seven-city U.S. tour of Terminus, with ArtsEmerson as the first stop, has the potential to change his lacking international notoriety.
Terminus is presented by the Abbey Theatre, a historical fixture of Ireland’s theater scene. The company has roots in Boston, having made its U.S. debut in the city exactly a century ago this year. Culture Ireland, the arts agency of the Irish government dedicated to promoting its local arts abroad, also had a hand in bringing the show to Boston.
The Terminus tour is just one component of its “Imagine Ireland” season of events, which includes several other readings and performances that recently hit ArtsEmerson’s Irish Festival. With its “world on stage” mantra and commitment to bringing international theater here to Boston, ArtsEmerson is a logical fit to partner up with these theatrical entities and bring an offbeat work like Terminus to the Paramount stage.