Anything But Love by Mary Coll

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RTE Drama on One, 4 March 2012
Annie (Cathy Belton) is a modern career woman who has returned from Dublin to Limerick to look after her dying mother. There she meets up with the rest of her family - Ritchie (Malcolm Adams), her gay brother dying of AIDS, her sister Marie Rose (Catriona Ni Mhurchu) and Marie Rose's husband Vincent (Malachy McKenna). The five-strong cast is completed by Polish nurse Kalena (Mirjana Rendulic).
Anything But Love might be described as quasi-Chekhovian in the sense that it focuses on the hopes and self-interested frustrations of a small group of people cooped up in a confined space for three days. While Annie enjoys a successful career, she has been unlucky in love; for years she has been attracted to Vincent, who has contracted a loveless marriage to Marie-Rose. Annie and Vincent meet furtively on several occasions; while confessing their attraction to one another, they know their dreams can never be fulfilled. Marie-Rose is full of self-loathing; partly this is due to Vincent's indifference towards her, but she also understands her inability to relate to people - especially members of her own family. While Ritchie has led a reckless life, he shares his sister's inability to communicate with people; rather than admit the truth about himself, he prefers to play the piano. Vincent has devoted himself to building up a property business; although a successful entrepreneur, he has a child-like approach to love and its consequences.
Mary Coll is a fine writer, with a unique ability to portray a family in turmoil through dramatically effective exchanges involving two or three characters. Sometimes her dialogue can be very funny - Ritchie in particular has some nice throwaway lines - but she is more concerned with showing how the past inevitably affects the present in all the family members' lives. Eventually the mother passes away, and the play ends with at least one family member achieving partial happiness - even if it will only be for a short time.
Recorded in front of a live audience at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum, Joan Sheehy's production contained a score performed live by Michael O'Suilleabhain that reinforced the play's melancholic tone.
This was the first in a series Drama in the Air, a month-long series of live performances presented by the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival in association with Drama on One. I look forward eagerly to hearing the other three productions.