The Mighty Carlins by Collin Doyle

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Download The Mighty Carlins from the Wireless Theatre Company

Wireless Theatre Company, 2013
It's the anniversary night of the passing of Mrs. Carlin, and Leo (Shane Rimmer) and his two sons Davey (Christian Malcolm) and Mike (Christopher Ragland) gather at the family home to share their memories of her.  The occasion is far from happy, however, as the three men drink beer, plot to outwit one another and reveal uncomfortable truths about one another.
The Mighty Carlins has strong links to other three-character dramas set in one location such as Sam Shepard's True West and David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross.  Writer Collin Doyle's focus is not so much on plot but rather on dialogue, as the protagonists use words to obtain mastery over one another.  The person with the greatest gift for fluency can consider himself "the winner."  In the end the three characters come to a dishonourable draw; no one triumphs in the end.  The language is often coarse, but the dialogue unfolds at a rapid pace, every statement from one character resembling a punch thrown in a verbal boxing match.
The title - The Mighty Carlins - is an ironic one: what distinguishes the three protagonists is their sheer absence of strength.  In spite of their grandiose plans (for example, the sons' trying to commit Leo to an old people's home in the hope of getting his money), it's clear that none of them possesses either the energy to implement them.  Rather they spend their time at home drinking beer and insulting one another.  Yet writer Doyle does not condemn them; they all know they are losers, and hence consider themselves powerless to change their respective situations.
The action contains a series of revelations about the three men and their relationship to the deceased mother.  However we never know whether they are true or false.  Perhaps it doesn't really matter; what matters more is that each character tries to use these revelations as a verbal stick to beat the other two characters with.
A play like this demands considerable commitment from the actors.  Rimmer, Ragland and Malcolm gave performances of admirable intensity, while ensuring that their voices contained sufficient tonal variation so as to sustain the listeners' interest.  The Mighty Carlins might not be a great play, but in Paul Blinkhorn's production it was certainly enthralling.