A COUPLE OF BLAGUARDS by Frank and Malachy McCourt, directed by Howard Platt, with Jarlath Conroy and Platt. Presented by David and Ed Mirvish, New York Blaguards and Marquis Entertainment at the Winter Garden (189 Yonge). Runs to December 12, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $41-$75. 416-872-1212. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Early in the second act of A Couple Of Blaguards , Frank McCourt (Jarlath Conroy), newly arrived in the U.S. from Ireland, explains to the audience that America is an Irish venture. Given the nature of the play, he might have included vaudeville in his list of Irish cultural contributions. Written by author/brothers Frank and Malachy McCourt , A Couple Of Blaguards is a fast run through the siblings' childhood in Limerick (act one) and their grown-up adventures in America (act two). The Catholic Church, poverty, songs, women (mostly maternal types) and digs at the English fill their tales, told in a sometimes but not sufficiently engaging manner by Conroy and director Howard Platt as Malachy.
Don't look for any of the intensity of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes here. The show moves like a cabaret and has something of Britcom TV about it; it's a glib, occasionally ham-fisted look at the brothers' lives. Every time the stories approach something that might have some emotional content - the death of a brother, Frank's proving that he should be admitted to NYU - the writing and performances run quickly to slick laughs or another story.
Some of the comedy does work. Two gossipy women trying to one-up each other in their holiness, Frank's first communion and his work tending canaries at a New York hotel all get real laughs.
Conroy usually acts as straight man in this duo, and his work has some charm. Playing off Conroy, Platt offers a variety of two-dimensional types and is the lesser part of the production. His storytelling has little enchantment, and his performance is rarely engaging. His heavy-handed, at times insulting drag characters seem directly lifted from hoary touring Christmas pantos.