Category: Archive

Reporter Heylin courts NYC stage success

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

They were at a production of Synge’s “The Playboy of the Western World.”
“I was outside the door of the theatre for about ten minutes and could hear what was going on inside and it seemed to have this tremendous buzz. I think I’ve been drawn to that buzz ever since,” said Heylin, a Cork-based journalist turned playwright.
When he studied at University College Cork a few years later, he spent much of his free time with the college’s dramatic society.
After graduating he found work as a freelance writer, which included some theatre criticism. And then, he tried his hand at writing plays himself.
That was back in the late 1980s, but it’s his more recent stint as a court reporter with the Irish Examiner, the daily headquartered in Cork, that has led him to New York’s theater world.
His “Love, Peace & Robbery” opens next Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 59E59 Theaters as part of Origin Theater’s “1st Irish 2008” festival. The play will run through Sunday, Sept. 28.
“It’s about two guys who are out of prison and trying to go straight. The play gets into their characters and explores the mixed-up feelings and motivations that screw up their lives,” Heylin said.
“It’s a kind of caper comedy as the two lads decide to rob a rural post office. The elaborate plan inevitably falls apart,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the laughter the play has drawn is the door into the lads’ lives. If it was just a case of laughing at them, then it wouldn’t interest me.
“I’m not looking for a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold vibe either. What I’m looking for is something beyond demonizing people who do bad things. For better or worse, they are still people,” the dramatist added.
“I think people equate the dirty deed with the guy who did it. [But] whether we like it or not, it’s more complicated than that and there’s good stuff in the worst of us.”
Heylin added: “The play has plenty of moral ambivalence, which is the way I like drama to be. ‘And the moral of the story, dear reader…’ That kind of stuff might be for interviews but it’s not for the play, not for my play anyway.?
Working on his next play (which has been commissioned and will be his third to be staged), Heylin turned not to a dramatist for inspiration, but to the late American short story writer Raymond Carver, “just to plug into what really great writing can do.”
He added: “I’ve learned a lot from playwrights that I don’t like, sometimes because of their sentimentality or their sensationalism or because they’re too locked in their own worlds to come out to play with the rest of us.”
“Love, Peace & Robbery” opened to glowing reviews in Ireland last year. The Irish Times commented: “Heylin delivers a finely observed, funny and utterly convincing portrait of crime and its environs.”
Such authenticity may derive in part from his direct experience reporting on many hundreds of cases over the years in Cork’s courts, as well from talking to people behind bars.
As to the issue of whether prisoners can go straight on the outside, Heylin said: “Yes. But breaking habits is hard and it’s more likely that a guy will fall back on old ways.
“Addictions are hard to beat. It’s hard to become more enriched and resourceful when you’re not getting a break,” he said. So society can help, he argued, by “looking beyond the dirty deed.”
Heylin will come to New York next week with his wife to see the production of “Love, Peace & Robbery” by Washington D.C.’s Keegan Theatre Company (which will also be stage it in the nation’s capital in a three-week run from Nov. 28).
He’s curious to see “how New Yorkers get on with a couple of guys from Cork making a hames of trying to go straight.”
For more details about the festival go to http://origintheatre.org. For tickets ($18) for “Love, Peace & Robbery” call 212-279-4200 or go to http://ticketcentral.com. To buy tickets in person, go to 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street (between Madison and Park Avenues) Monday: 12-6 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday: 12-8 p.m., Sunday: 12-3 p.m.

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