MODERN Irishmen have been driven to assume that you love God by hating women. A curious attitude, but then Ireland has produced some curious women. Grania, a legendary noblewoman of pre-medieval times, was certainly one of those primarily responsible for the bewildered attitude of the Irish. Her countrywomen have been imitating her for centuries.
Grania was no giggly coquette, however. According to one version of the legend she, as a young girl, left her gravhaired husband, Finn, an Irish king, and ran off with Diarmuid, one of Finn's young warriors. Finn pursues the couple and, one day, while Diarmuid, one of Finn's young warriors. Finn pursues the couple and, one day, while Diarmuid sleeps Grania turns back to Finn and goes off with him.
Lady Gregory, Yeats' old pal, knew the legend and saw in it possibilities for an exploration of the wackv Irish female temperament. Her play Grania, which is being performed quite nicely these days down at Adams House, is a somewhat altered and heightened version of the legend.
Grania's problem, though she doesn't really know it is that her blood is two-thirds greasepaint. Basically she wants to love and be loved, but something about the condition of life in that confused isle has made her want to camouflage her feelings. The games she indulges in to get her man are to Grania nothing but false.
It's not an inconsiderable job to bring off the nuances of Grania's character. And apart from the first act, when she sounds as if she's taken voice lessons from Evelyn Wood, Margaret Stanback handles the job. She's especially fine when she confronts the pursuing Finn.
Dominic Meiman is Finn the Irish king. Although Finn is supposed to be a somewhat older fellow, Meiman strikes me as a little too decrepit for a warrior king.
Looking more a Mad Armenian than a young Gaelic fighter is James Hoare as Diarmuid. Last night Hoare delivered most of his lines like a town crier, which may have been indicative more of first night uneasiness than anything else. In some seenes, especially the later ones with Finn, he was much more relaxed and much more effective.
Although Grania is the chief culprit, the three of them bark and bite at one other all night in a manner not unlike the Tyrones in Long Day's Journey into Night. Lady Gregory's penchant for folk dialect and fairly elaborate imagery prevent the encounters from being quite so acerbic, and give the characters a sort of distance. There's not an awful lot you can do with only two or three characters on stage, and director John Pym settles for movement that is simple and unobtrusive.
Teun Koolhaas designed the sets, which were apparently modeled on the Widener-Lamont tunnel before it was painted. Although they box in the three characters nicely, the sets are somewhat sparse.
James Hoare and David C. Perry provided the music--a pleasant Gaelic acid-rock.
The opening night audience, which included such motley elements as a girl dressed in a satin bedspread designed to look a mini-skirt, and another who kept explaining to her boy friend that South Orange, N.J., was a suburban area and not part of a city, enjoyed the show. The success of Pym and his cast in making this fable of Grania more than just a fable suggests that you will too.