AboutFACE Theatre Company is delighted to present the world premiere of this bold and exciting new play ‘The Gods of The Ozarks’ at the Civic next week. much to the excitement of the Company and ourselves, the writer Matthew Cole Kelly will be travelling over from New York to see the piece and will join the cast & some of the creative team for a post-show chat on Thursday 22nd August. Matthew took so time to give us some background to the piece and his Irish-American connections!
After I’ve finished a play, I sometimes allow myself the indulgence of imagining where it might one day find life onstage. Part science and part art, the exercise is the theatrical equivalent of market research mixed with palm reading. And I like to think that I’ve developed a knack for it, successfully predicting the roads several of my plays have taken.
Then came The Gods of the Ozarks. One doesn’t finish a play set in the earliest days of the American Midwest and instantly declare, “This show will open in Ireland!” And yet, as we count down the days to our debut at The Civic, I’ve come to see that this piece and Dublin are a match made in theatrical heaven.
Ozarks is a dark comedy set in an isolated 19th-century Missouri town in the heart of the American frontier. It centers on a small-town doctor who, due to religious taboos forbidding the cutting of dead bodies, takes to stealing corpses from a cemetery in the hope of perfecting his craft. When the locals discover that the bodies have been stolen, the doctor convinces them that they’ve actually resurrected. Believing the lie, the townspeople begin worshipping their departed neighbors as bonified American gods.
At its core, Ozarks explores our shared need to find meaning in life and in death. It dissects religion in an effort to understand what makes it tick. And it does it in a way that leaves audiences in stitches, laughing at the absurdity of a town caught under the spell of resurrection fever.
When I learned that Ozarks would receive a reading and production in Ireland, I found myself reflecting on my childhood in an Irish-American home. Raised by a Catholic father and Protestant mother, religion was as hotly contested as it was deliciously absurd. I can still remember scouring relatives’ houses to see which had photos of the pope, deciding it was the easiest way to keep track of their beliefs without having to talk to them.
I similarly remember being driven to Protestant and Catholic cemeteries to stand before child-sized tombstones bearing the names of relatives: the Kellys, the Kinsellas, the Caseys, the Morans. There, buried beneath six feet of sod and soil, lay the only reason anybody in the family maintained the bizarre religious rituals. It was then I realized that it didn’t matter which uncle had the photo of the pope or which aunt went to Presbyterian services. The relatives resting in repose under the meticulously maintained funereal plots were the true gods, pulling us all into their orbits.
And so it’s fitting that Ozarks would, in its own way, connect me with my family’s past. If, in the next week, you should pass a cemetery and see an out-of-place American standing before a child-sized tombstone bearing the name of a Kelly, Kinsella, Casey, or Moran, smile. For you’ll have found a playwright who made his way from New York to Dublin by way of Missouri. And what a journey it’s been.
Matthew Cole Kelly is a NYC-based playwright and librettist. Among his upcoming projects are We Victorians, a play that interweaves Me Too Era moralism with Greek mythology (scheduled for a 29-hour AEA reading in the US in November) and the opera Ami&Tami (scheduled to open in Italy’s Teatro Coccia di Novara in December).
The Gods of The Ozarks
20 – 24 August
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The Civic Sessions
Post-Show discussion with writer Matthew Cole Kelly & The AboutFACE creative team
Thursday 22nd August