In Solas Nua’s ‘Maz and Bricks,’ a theatrical gem and an urgent issue

Two young people in Dublin meet cute in a play that tackles the controversial subject of abortion.

Some of the greatest writers in history come from Ireland. James Joyce. William Butler Yeats. Samuel Beckett. There are many more. Eva O’Connor’s play Maz and Bricks has a Joycean quality. And it tackles the controversial subject of abortion, now a critical part of our national conversation.

Two young people wander through Dublin, fall a little bit in love, and help each other through the devastating consequences of the gravest crises in their lives. The language is partially realistic, partly a kind of slam poetry. It all works beautifully. In addition, Choreographer Ashleigh King and Director and Co-Choreographer Rex Daugherty have given Emily Kester (Maz) and Jonathan Feuer (Bricks) some astonishingly vital choreography, which adds to the production’s stylistic verve.

Jonathan Feuer as Bricks and Emily Kester as Maz in ‘Maz and Bricks.’ Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

It is 2017. Emily Kester’s Maz and Jonathan Feuer’s Bricks meet on the Luas, the Dublin light rail. She is working on her “Repeal the Eighth” sign. He is going to pick up his beloved four-year-old daughter from his aggrieved ex.

The Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s Constitution (1983) recognized the equal right to life of the pregnant woman and the unborn. In practice, this meant that abortion would be allowed only when the life of the pregnant woman was at risk. It was signed into law on October 7, 1983. In 2018, it was repealed by referendum.

Maz is on her way to the demonstration affirming women’s right to control their own bodies as equal citizens. Bricks is immediately drawn to her, and has enormous confidence in his profile and his irresistibility. Maz “only half” likes him, and is focused more on her own plans to protest. Their chemistry on stage is fueled by wit, rage, and a deep underlying tenderness.

In the play, a 19-year-old woman, Eimear Colgan, has died because she was not “well enough” or “well-off enough” to afford an abortion. Maz is angry about this, and many other things: The ever-present statues of Irish men such as the nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell, who tend to rise to power. The terrible fates of women such as Eimear who have been abandoned by their own society. And her own past tragedy, which has destroyed her relationship with her mother and left her to cope alone.

Emily Kester as Maz and Jonathan Feuer as Bricks in ‘Maz and Bricks.’ Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

Bricks is avoiding his past trauma by refusing to go to a memorial Mass, despite his mother’s urging. He is fascinated by Maz and makes numerous attempts to win her trust, using his natural humor and what he considers his inescapable charm. She is reluctant but on a deeper level seems to realize that she has met someone who will actually listen to her. Emily Kester’s Maz is a brilliant portrait of a tough, troubled, and highly sympathetic woman. Jonathan Feuer’s Bricks is full of tricks and laughter, and yet serious and thoughtful when he needs to be. Both actors give stellar performances.

The set, which features hollow black boxes covered with graffiti such as “Hands Off Our Bodies,” is spare and well-suited to its multiple uses. (Scenic design and technical direction is by Nadir Bey). There are hanging lights (Helen Garcia-Alton) that flicker on and off, reflecting the mood of the scene. Sound design by Gordon Nimmo-Smith, a combination of music, and the sounds of the crowd, ebbs and flows hauntingly throughout.

Costumes by Charlotte La Nasa (who is also assistant producer and dramaturg), a green jacket and black leggings for Maz and black jeans and a jacket for Bricks, neatly reinforce our impressions of their ideas and lifestyles.

Jonathan Feuer as Bricks and Emily Kester as Maz in ‘Maz and Bricks.’ Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

Maz and Bricks deals frankly with abortion, a sensitive subject for many, especially now (see “Solas Nua’s ‘Maz and Bricks’ and the war on abortion rights”). In the middle of a pandemic and a divided nation, it would be easy for a theater to concentrate on entertainment and avoid difficult subjects. Solas Nua has not made this choice. In presenting Maz and Bricks, they shine a light on an issue that will probably become critical for some Americans and deadly for others. And they have brought us a theatrical gem.

Running Time: 80 minutes, with no intermission.

Maz and Bricks plays through June 26, 2022, presented by Solas Nua performing at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC. Tickets ($10–$45) are available for purchase online.

The Maz and Bricks playbill is online here.

COVID Safety: All patrons must be fully vaccinated by the date of their visit. Face masks are required at all times regardless of vaccination status. See the Atlas Performing Arts Center’s complete Health and Safety policy here.

Post Show Discussion: On June 17, Heather Booth, a progressive political strategist, will share her experiences as a founder of the Jane Collective, an underground service providing abortion care before Roe. Her post-show discussion will also focus on what our world will be like after Roe and what we can do about it. (For other post-show discussions, check the Solas Nua website.)

Content Warning: This production deals with sensitive subjects such as suicide. If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255 (available 24 hours; languages: English, Spanish).

Maz and Bricks
By Eva O’Connor
Directed by Rex Daugherty

Starring
Emily Kester and Jonathan Feuer

Creative Team
Choreography – Ashleigh King
Co-Choreography – Rex Daugherty
Lighting Design – Helen Garcia-Alton
Scenic Design/Technical Director – Nadir Bey
Sound Design – Gordon Nimmo-Smith
Stage Manager – Samantha Leahan
Assistant Stage Manager – Mary Doebel
Assistant Producer/Dramaturg/Costume Stylist – Charlotte La Nasa

Solas Nua, “new light” in Irish, is the only organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to contemporary Irish arts. From their base in Washington, DC, their mission is to bring the best new Irish artistic talent to American audiences. They are celebrated in Ireland for award-winning work that nurtures emerging talent and provides Irish artists with a supportive, warm, and compelling forum in the United States. They are recognized in Washington, DC, and beyond for being dynamic and innovative, and for making a substantial and unique contribution to the artistic and cultural richness of each city, within and outside the Irish-American communities.

SEE ALSO:
Solas Nua’s ‘Maz and Bricks’ and the war on abortion rights (interview feature by Sophia Howes)

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Sophia Howes has been a reviewer for DCMTA since 2013 and a columnist since 2015. She has an extensive background in theater. Her play Southern Girl was performed at the Public Theater-NY, and two of her plays, Rosetta’s Eyes and Solace in Gondal, were produced at the Playwrights’ Horizons Studio Theatre. She studied with Curt Dempster at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, where her play Madonna was given a staged reading at the Octoberfest. Her one-acts Better Dresses and The Endless Sky, among others, were produced as part of Director Robert Moss’s Workshop-NY. She has directed The Tempest, at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Amphitheatre, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Monongalia Arts Center, both in Morgantown, WV. She studied Classics and English at Barnard and received her BFA with honors in Drama from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where she received the Seidman Award for playwriting. Her play Adamov was produced at the Harold Clurman Theater on Theater Row-NY. She holds an MFA from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where she received the Lucille Lortel Award for playwriting. She studied with, among others, Michael Feingold, Len Jenkin, Lynne Alvarez, and Tina Howe. Her father, Carleton Jones, long-time real estate editor and features writer for the Baltimore Sun, inspired her to become a writer.

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