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Review: Sive 

The NOLA Project presents an Irish drama at the Ashe Power House Theater

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Photo by John Barrois

Sive asks her grandmother about her parents, who died separately when she was young. Mike Glavin promised his sister, Sive's dying mother, that he would take care of the girl and pro- vide for her education. His wife Mena has soured on the 17-year-old's school- ing while the family scrapes by on its meager farm in 1950s Ireland. She seems happy to be rid of Sive and her mother-in-law when a matchmaker arrives with a proposal that upends their world in Sive, presented by The NOLA Project at Ashe Power House Theater.

  Matchmaker Thomasheen Sean Rua (James Bartelle) tells Mena (Kristin Witterschein) that a man will pay the Glavins 200 pounds if Sive (Yvette Bourgeois) marries him. The suitor is the wealthy farmer Sean Dota (Ron Gural), who is an old man, and Mena scoffs at the idea. Witterschein is fiery as Mena, though she's also vulnerable and humbled by her family's hardscrabble life. When Rua suggests she could send the mother-in-law, Nanna Glavin (Janet Shea), to live at Sive's new home, Mena warms to the plan.

  Mike (Alex Martinez Wallace) refuses to consider it, but Mena insists it benefits everyone, especially since Sive was born out of wedlock and might have a hard time finding a husband. Mike is caught between his conscience and the reality of their circumstances. Nanna is Sive's only ally, and the quick-tongued, pipe-smoking grandmother advocates for Sive's happiness. She distrusts the matchmaker, who Bartelle plays with humor.

  Irish playwright John B. Keane's story weighs the unseemly bargain's moral price tag. A pair of traveling poet-beggars (John Grimsley and A.J. Allegra) act as the show's moral conscience as they report rumors circulating in the village. Director Alex Ates navigates the difficult themes of poverty, illegitimacy and family strife as the deal is pushed to its conclusion.

  Steve Schepker's set portrays the Glavins' small, dusty home and audience members sitting on either side of the jutting stage are close to the dining room table. The living space is sparsely appointed, save for a rocking chair and a kettle in a fireplace.

  Sive wants nothing to do with the elderly suitor, who Gural plays as quiet but determined. She is in love with Liam Scuab (Joel Derby), but they are forbidden to be together because Mike has an ongoing feud with the Scuab family. Bourgeois is affecting as the girl, highlighting her innocence and resilience. Her interactions with Derby are some of the show's brightest moments as the two share young love.

  The production is beautifully acted and directed, and Sive bears the weight of her family's world as she struggles with the hard choices life offers her.

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