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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: February 20, 2019

Warning: ‘The Irish Curse’ contains mature – and hilarious – content

Written by: Bob Keyes

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A new play in Portland answers the age-old question, “But who’s counting?”

Apparently, everybody.

“The Irish Curse,” opening Saturday at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, is about a support group for men with small penises. Five guys sit around a church basement and share their laments. Beyond abundant weiner jokes, Martin Casella’s play has a serious message about body image and body shaming and how men deal with issues commonly associated with women.

To put a finer point on it, the small-penis discussion is a tough one for society to grasp, said Brian Allen, artistic director at Good Theater, which is producing the comedy. “What do you do when you have a 2-inch nub? We are not set up for it,” he said.

The first time he read the script, Allen laughed hysterically, put it aside and said something he seldom ever says: I can’t do this. After his partner also laughed out loud, Allen decided to ignore his blushes and do the play anyway, with every warning possible.

Strong language. Mature themes. Adult content.

“You’ve got to know we’re going to be talking about sex,” he said. “If those three warnings don’t clue you in to what the play is about, I am here all week.”

Good Theater is producing the play in tandem with “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” using the same set and running this show on nights and matinees when the other show is dark. It opens with a 12:30 p.m. Saturday matinee and continues with performances at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday through March 16.

Allen thinks it pairs well with “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” which explores issues that deal with family relationships and women’s rights, as well as the perceptions and societal constraints associated with what it means to be a woman or a man. “The Irish Curse” looks at the manhood question from the perspective of men who don’t measure up. Ultimately, the play is touching and shamelessly funny, Allen said.

“After a few minutes, you realize how something that is such a little problem affects them in such a big way,” he groaned.

The title references the notion – some say myth – that Irish men come up short. The Urban Dictionary offers such alternate definitions as a “baby corn,” “bottle cap” and “cocktail weiner.” There’s a line in the play, “I was born in Boston, Mass., which is perhaps the only state in the union where being stricken by the Irish Curse is not unusual.”

Allen said his decision to produce the play was affirmed when he gave the script to one of his board members, an older woman whose opinion he trusts and discretion he respects. “Her comment was, ‘I loved it. I want to see it, but I don’t want any of my friends to know I was there.’ ”

Paul Haley directs. An actor who frequently appears in plays at the St. Lawrence, Haley is making his debut as a director for Good Theater. The cast includes Seth Berner, Thomas Ian Campbell, Paul Drinan, Conor Riordan Martin and Jared Mongeau.

Though the material may be a little risque, there is no nudity.

“Oh, god, no,” Allen said. “I would not have wanted to be in those auditions.”

“The Irish Curse” by Good Theater

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Saturdays, 5 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, 7 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays through March 13
WHERE: St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $22
INFO: (207) 835-0895, goodtheater.com

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