We Wait in Joyful Hope at Theatre 503
It is with supreme difficulty that a writer is able to address seriously the issues of their day without lapsing into artless punditry, but with his debut play Brian Mullin has just about managed it. We Wait in Joyful Hope, now at Theatre 503, touches gentrification, feminism and police brutality, but does so without instructing or moralising, and never at the expense of its quality as art.
Sister Bernie D’Amato (Maggie McCarthy) is the forthright but aging head of an embattled woman’s centre, and an emblem of the post-1960s sisterhood. She’s joined by Felicia (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) a strong-headed local girl and Mrs Joanne Feeney (Deirdra Morris), a soft-spoken former nun. When word comes of a redevelopment project in their area of New Jersey, Bernie launches herself into action, pitting herself against a faceless property developer and his co-conspirator in the church, Father Michael Grady (James Tucker).
All three women will be familiar to fans of American film: the crude-workaholic-with-a-heart-of-gold, the good-kid-from-a-rough-neighbourhood and the prim-older-lady-whose-walls-come-down. Most of the time they’re more complex than this, of course, but when the plot demands it their more basic logics tends to show through. Nevertheless, it is a touching and fantastically funny play, and Morris and Uwajeh deliver flawless and moving performances. McCarthy too, despite a few stumbles, makes her character come alive. And giving it all context is a brilliantly dynamic set design by Katherine Heath — complete with Che Guevara t-shirts and smoking ovens.
But the biggest standout was the writing. In his debut production Mullin gives us politics as only an artist could, giving us an intimate glance at our problems without ever preaching a solution.
We Wait in Joyful Hope is on at Theatre 503 from 17th May until 11th June 2016, for further information or to book visit here.