BOTTOM LINE: The Irish Curse is a hilarious new comedy that's got some serious (albeit small) balls and a brilliant all-male cast.
What out there, other than sports and sex, has the power to bond guys and get them talking like a group of yentas for over an hour? Their penises, of course! In Martin Casella’s new comedy, The Irish Curse, five very different men from Manhattan and its neighboring boroughs are all members of a self-help group that meets weekly to discuss one very big problem that they all have in common: their tiny penises. (So much for the luck of the Irish. It turns out this “little problem” is just as common among those of Irish descent as freckles and red hair!)
What, on paper, sounds like a sophomoric comedy filled with dick jokes or an all-male staged version of Sex and the City-meets-American Pie, is instead a hilariously touching look at what it’s like to be a man when the thing that makes you one is as big as a baby corn. Of the many things I learned from The Irish Curse (including but not limited to all of the races known for being well-endowed – Viva la Italia! – and every possible synonym for the word penis, my favorites being “cocktail weenie” and “willy”) is that if you’re cursed “down there,” life is filled with unrelenting self-doubt, insecurity, depression, and failed relationships. In other words, the penis has the power. If you let it.
As if the subject matter weren’t titillating enough, the performances in The Irish Curse are fantastic. Dan Butler’s nebbish Southern contracts lawyer, Joseph, doesn’t miss a beat, whether he is retelling the gut-wrenching tale of how his wife left him or busting the chops of sports medicine student Rick from Staten Island (an extremely honest and natural Brian Leahy). As a dirty-mouthed gay NYPD cop reminiscent of a roughed-up Hugh Jackman, Austin Peck’s performance is as hilarious and nuanced as his looks are swoon-worthy. It is particularly great to see him go up against Roderick Hill’s straight-off-the-boat naïve and sensitive Irishman, Kieran, who is in a comically constant sate of both panic and shock at the stories and confessions of his American brothers. Scott Jaeck’s Father Kevin – the man heading the self-help group – balances out the raucous locker room outcasts perfectly. Jaeck quietly lingers in the background until, at the admittance of doing “the ruler test” (which, if you’re not sure what “the ruler test” is, you either a) need to see the show or b) are lying), he makes his presence as both a character and an actor known. He quite possibly ignited the most laughter from the audience - myself included.
All of the actors play off of each other and interact so convincingly that I didn’t so much feel like an audience member watching a play as I did a voyeur looking in on an actual self-help group. They each possessed a natural quality that made the characters real people instead of caricatures and made the situation – that five men of different ages and walks of life would get together and actually talk about their shortcomings – believable and also totally relatable (even if you aren't Irish, from Staten Island, or - you know - a man).
In between laughing and nodding understandingly, there was a part of me that wanted to scream at this group of self-loathing guys to get over themselves: talking about and analyzing physical foibles is practically scheduled into a woman’s day. But the other part empathized with these dudes, because unlike with certain female problems, it appears that there is no solution for small, god-given parts. As innocent Kieran quickly learns from the group, penis pumps and pills are nothing more than a waste of money and false hope, and penile implants can result in a lifelong case of flaccidity (and the only thing worse than being a man with a small penis is to be a man with virtually no penis at all). Who knew that men may actually have it harder (or, you know, not) than women? Turns out that lackluster junk will cause you to be just as self-loathing and insecure as a less-than-ample bosom. While there is no known cure for being size-challenged in the nether-regions, there is a way to help ease the pain: get together with other men suffering from the same affliction and talk about it. See, guys? Sitting around and discussing your feelings really work wonders for your self-esteem! After all, by the time the meeting is done, everyone acknowledges the power of facing the problem head on and just showing up.
The Irish Curse is the hilariously heart-warming tale I’ve been waiting to hit off-Broadway for quite some time and begs the question, where have these actors and this playwright been all my life? A brilliant ensemble comedy that just goes to show that a little dick humor goes a long way. It's male-bonding at its finest. A ticket to The Irish Curse? $59. Watching five extremely talented actors of all ages talk about their penises for 90 minutes? Priceless.
*Get $8 tickets to The Irish Curse with an 8coupons.com OCHO LOCO deal! Use discount code TCKS8 online or at the box office. Offer is good for all performances through May 30th, but you have to buy tickets by May 14th.
(The Irish Curse plays at The Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street through May 30th. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm and 7pm. The show runs one hour and thirty minutes, no intermission. Tickets are $59 for all seats, all performances and can be purchased online at www.theirishcurse.com/tickets.htm or by calling 212.691.1555.)