Digging up graves, unearthing old secrets

Photo of a skull and a clover“Wickedly funny and intensely dark,” is how director Kay Martinovich describes the upcoming Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance production of Martin McDonagh’s “A Skull in Connemara,” opening Thursday, Jan. 29.

Faculty member Martinovich is well-suited to direct a play by an Irish playwright, as she has spent the majority of her professional career as a director and scholar who studied theater in Ireland.

She says she is thrilled to be working on a play by the McDonagh because his work encapsulates the canon of Irish drama.

“While my expertise is in Irish theater, I’ve never directed a play by McDonagh. I have admired his work greatly since the early ’90s,” Martinovich says. “It involves gossip, intrigue, murder and what happens when you don’t trust your neighbor.”

The play presents a picture of the realities of life in a small-town on Ireland’s west coast. The story follows Mick Dowd, a grave digger, who is sometimes given the task of digging up bodies after they have rested for seven years to make room for the newly dead.

This year, he is unearthing the remains of his late wife, Oona. As her bones are brought to the surface, so too are the rumors and gossip that Oona’s death might have been the result of foul play and that Dowd had something to do with it.

This production will feature a cast of four graduate students from the SoTD theatre program, including second year MFA candidates Martin Diaz-Valdes, Christina Fuchs, Andrew Snyder and Jake Ben Suazo.

“Each character is like a little gem,” Martinovich says. “(There are) idiosyncrasies … traits that are so specific to the absurd world of the play that make it mesmerizing to watch.” Martinovich knows what the audience reaction will be: “They’ll think, ‘No, they didn’t just say that! They didn’t just do that!’ But, they did,” she says.

“A Skull in Connemara” is the first of four Mainstage Series productions to be performed during the spring semester and runs from Thursday, Jan. 29, through Sunday, Feb. 1, and Thursday, Feb. 5, through Saturday, Feb. 7. Performances are at the Huntley Middle School Auditorium, 1515 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb.

Ticket reservations are available online or by contacting the NIU School of Theatre and Dance box office at (815) 753-1600 or sotdboxoffice@niu.edu.

This production of “A Skull in Connemara” is not affiliated with DeKalb Community Unit School District 428.

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