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The Irish Curse at BUA

The cast of BUA's "The Irish Curse:" Matthew Crehan Higgins, Jonathan Shuey, Dave Hayes, Kevin Craig, and Michael Seitz.

The Irish Curse, opening Friday at Buffalo United Artists, is a comedy by Martin Casella about a support group for men with one tiny problem. An acorn. A baby corn. A bottle cap. A cocktail weiner.

You get the idea. To some people, size matters.

Yes, we’re talking about penises. The play follows a group of men who meet every Wednesday night in the social hall of a Catholic church in New York City for a support group run by their parish priest.

Admired for its ribald humor as well as for its candid assessment of body image and a male compulsion to anchor feelings of self-worth in how we “measure up” beside other men, the play had its world premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival. The run was entirely sold out, and the play was honored with the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Playwriting. The work enjoyed similar praise at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and subsequently transferred to the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival.

While the subject matter is silly, and the treatment is riotously funny, under the surface, Casella offers an insightful exploration of how men and society define masculinity.

Here we meet Joseph Flaherty, Stephen Fitzgerald, Rick Baldwin, and Kevin Shaunessy, professionals all. Beyond thinking that size matters, each of these guys believes that his hidden shortcoming has ruined his life.

All this whining and complaining is turned upside down when, one night, the group is joined by a young and charismatic working-class guy who comically exposes the shallow way these men have defined their lives, their masculinity, their relationships, and their social status.

The late Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press described The Irish Curse as “Perfect popular entertainment…a savvy mixture of laughs and seriousness,” and “a very human and even humane play. You will find yourself rooting for these esteem-building sessions to succeed.”

At Buffalo United Artists the characters will be embodied by Kevin Craig, Dave Hayes, Matthew Crehan Higgins, Michael Seitz, and Jonathan Shuey, under the direction of Drew McCabe.

Interviewed by Matthew Crehan Higgins for the BUA Facebook page, Casella revealed the origins of the play.

“Some Irish-American buddies of mine in New York happened to make a remark one day about a guy they all knew who had ‘the Irish Curse,’” he recalled. “Quite innocently, assuming it meant alcoholism, I asked what they were talking about. I was stunned to find out what they were discussing was the alleged small size of the Irish-American guy in question’s genitals. Being from Los Angeles, a city where people go to escape their birth identities, I was fascinated not only by the tightly knit ethnic communities I had found in cities like Boston, New York, Philly, and Baltimore, but by this crazy and slightly silly stereotyping of Irish men. But the more I talked with the group of guys, the more I came to see that they really believed this to be true. Not for all Irish-American guys, of course, but certainly for many. By the end of the evening, I had found the topic for my new play. Not so much about ‘the Irish Curse itself’ but about what we are taught—as men—to believe about ourselves and our bodies.”

The play opens on November 16 and runs through December 8, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sunday, November 25 at 7pm, at the BUA Theater (119 West Chippewa Street). Call 886-9239 for reservations. (For the full Higgins interview with the playwright, see the Buffalo United Artists page on Facebook).