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“Da” is a Thoughtful Treat and The Ghost of Family Relationships Past

Da is a story of ghosts and of wistful memories. It’s a story that gets you thinking and talking about your own past, and maybe questioning your recollections.

Playing through August 20 at Virginia Rep at Hanover Tavern, Hugh Leonard’s Drama Desk and Tony Award-winning play features masterful acting, a charming set, and much to ponder.

Alan Sader, Louise Ricks, Landon Nagel, and Trevor Craft. Photo by Jay Paul.

It’s a memory play set in Dalkey, Ireland, starting out in 1968, flashing back to the memories of Charlie Tynan (Landon Nagel), a London-based writer who has come back to town to bury his adopted father, Da. Charlie wants to put the past behind him, but instead is immersed in memories and ghosts in his childhood home. In fact, Da, who is not dead in Charlie’s mind, is trying to make him tea.

These ghosts aren’t frightening, but rather frustrating on occasion – as parents can be. Charlie interacts with townspeople from his youth in the present while his younger self relives episodes with his mother (Kelly Kennedy) and father, Da (a fabulous performance by Alan Sader). Da is both a character in the play and in Charlie’s mind, and the interaction between Sader and Nagel is superb.

Sometimes, older Charlie watches young Charlie (played by Trevor Craft), giving advice and commentary from the sidelines. What’s interesting is that the scenes are written so the audience (and older Charlie) can objectively see if Charlie’s anger was justified. Some of those flashbacks are poignant, such as Charlie’s attempt to woo a young woman. Others are downright embarrassing, as when his mother unnecessarily explains to a potential employer how Charlie was an illegitimate child they adopted.

Trevor Craft and Kelly Kennedy. Photo by Jay Paul.

It’s in the present-day scenes, when adult Charlie talks with his father after his death, that Charlie realizes his parents did truly love him and did the best they could for him.

While there are plenty of laughs in the production (a particular favorite was when Charlie tries to lock his father out of the house, Da – being dead – can just hop through a wall), there’s still an air of wistfulness about unfulfilled dreams.

Virginia Rep’s production, directed by Steve Perigard, features top-notch acting by the entire cast, a wonderfully shabby set designed by Terrie Powers, costumes by Sue Griffin and B.J. Wilkinson’s mood-setting lighting design. It can be tricky to pull off Irish accents, and props to Amanda Durst for dialect direction, which was generally spot-on.

Kids may appreciate the accents, the music, and a story that could spark conversations about family memories. It’s highly recommended.

Da runs through August 20 at Virginia Rep’s Hanover Tavern. For showtimes and tickets, click here.


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