By Patrick O’Brien
They probably shouldn’t have sent the guy named “O’Brien” to cover Ode at Pint’s End, for there’s no hope of objectivity. Walking into a lambent upstairs room at Mrs. Murphy’s Irish Bistro, I came upon gaiety, Guinness and a trio sawing and strumming their way through “Molly Malone.” (“Alive, alive, oh!”) Even though I haven’t been to Ireland, and even though I was now nominally back in the 1860s, I’ll be damned if this didn’t feel like belonging. Even before the top of the show proper, my feet ached from stomping in time.
And then the play unfurled like damask: an ancient, quiet, and sometimes disquieting tale of maritime wanderlust, all about the sailors who heed the call, the sirens who sing when the sailing is a tad too smooth, and the wives who hold aloft a lantern ‘pon the shore till they return.
Also worth mentioning: Ode at Pint’s End is an immersive play, so whatever objectivity I could offer hinges on which nooks and crannies I happened to get shuffled into, what secrets were whispered in my ear, what stray details I was privileged to see. It’s like, well, a pub gathering: it’ll take a minute to gather the particulars over the hubbub, and you may not catch a few names (and that’s not just the Guinness at work), but you’ll get the gist. It then depends on how well you give in to its spell.
As mentioned, I was sold well before the final toast, but there’s much to admire, particularly Janie Killips’ arrangements of classic Irish folk music, as well as beguiling, yearning original music of her own.
This is the first I’ve heard of Birch House Immersive, even though they’ve been operating for a few years now. They specialize in shows like these, ones that can fit cozily in upstairs pub rooms and the like and unspool at their leisure. All the same, I’ll gladly stand ‘pon the shore for what Killips and her fellow writer/director/producer Lauren N. Fields offer up next.
Birch House Immersive puts up “The Ode at Pint’s End through December 15 at Mrs’ Murphy & Son’s Irish Bistro, 3905 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago. More information and tickets are available here.