In a graveyard in a divided city, love declares itself. A formula as old as “Romeo and Juliet” returns in Graham Reid’s sentimental comedy “Remembrance.”
Set in Belfast in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, “Remembrance” stages stark divisions in nearly every scene: Protestant and Catholic, father and son, mother and daughter.
A romance between a Protestant man and a Catholic woman in their 60s, Bert (Mik Scriba) and Theresa (Diana Angelina), mildly unsettles the prejudice that only young love can upset the status quo. Their cautious dates in the graveyard where their dead sons lie buried also conveys the hope of some intimate solution to endless division.
These divisions include the divide between those who like to talk and those who don’t. In Theatre 40’s production, Johnny O’Callaghan, as Bert’s tortured son Victor, and Christine Joëlle, as Theresa’s equally tortured daughter Deirdre, bring blasts of frustrated garrulity to a milieu defined by the stolid self-sacrifice of their parents.
Scriba and Angelina convey the subdued self-suppression of veterans of religious division. O’Callaghan and Joëlle portray the manic energy of those closer to the front lines of sectarian violence and hemmed in by commitments they wish they could abandon. The remarkable Elizabeth Lande, as Victor’s estranged wife, Jenny, and Alice Cutler, as Deirdre’s younger, guilt-ridden sister, fill out the cast with sensitive and subtle performances.
Reid’s play stresses, sometimes awkwardly, the symmetrical pain that binds the two families: “We have our suffering in common.” Director Tim Byron Owen’s production, especially its obtrusive soundtrack of traditional songs between scenes, suggests that some quintessence of Ireland will rescue these sufferers from sectarian division.
Those on stage, however, hold out no such hope “Mother Ireland will have to take a rest,” resolutely declares Deirdre. The characters occupy their present: Belfast 1988. Production elements promise the salvation of an Irish tradition in which none of these characters believes.