By Olivia Tracey
As I arrived at Westwood’s prestigious Geffen Playhouse last week for the West Coast premiere of Martin McDonagh’s "The Cripple of Inishmann," I simply inhaled the tremendous buzz of the place, getting high on the perfect blend of New York energy and Hollywood glitz.
Familiar faces could be seen everywhere among the bustling audience, including Jack Lemon looking very hip indeed in a butter yellow leather jacket — a perfect choice particularly with a name like Lemon. As I was taking in Jack’s style I did a double take as no less than Helen Hunt, looking simply lovely in an up-to-the-minute gray shift dress, wandered past in the company of "Godzilla" Hank Azaria. A more gracious and delightful couple you could not meet, both of them engaging in extensive conversation with my Donegal friend Tony "Emerald Greens" O’Donnell and me.
Then, all of a sudden, I began to feel most uncharacteristically shy in the presence of the Oscar-winning star of "As Good As it Gets" and found myself blurting out about how I loved her performance so much in the film that I went to see it twice and brought my parents the second time. Cringe, cringe! I can’t believe I came out with such a phony-sounding comment. However, the fact is, I meant it. I did see the movie twice and I did bring Mom and Dad the second time. I didn’t tell her that Dad fell asleep, which, in my Dad’s case, can be taken with a grain of salt, considering that he had a big-time snooze on my mother’s living room couch the first time he met her parents. They considered him "the answer to prayer." So, Helen, no need to be offended.
Also standing out from the crowd were John Lithgow of "Third Rock From The Sun" John Lithgow and big-screen star Beau Bridges, who, incidentally, looks far more attractive in person. Speaking of attractive, our own Gabriel Byrne was there looking better than ever. He had that "I’ve just come back from a health farm" look, fresh-faced, bright-eyed, relaxed and smoldering. Also in fine spirits was Fionnula Flanagan, as affable and amiable as always, and no doubt happy with her role as the matriarch of an Irish-American Boston family on the new CBS series "To Have and To Hold." She was with her charming agent, Penny Barr, of the prestigious Susan Smith stable. "Star Trek’s" Captain O’Brien, Colm Meaney, was, of course, as friendly and down to earth as ever and in the company of his lovely former wife and friend, the renowned actress Barbara Dowling.
It was a night when everyone was looking their best, and producer Georgeanne Heller was no exception. Beautifully dressed in stylish gray classics, she was on a four-day birthday celebration in L.A. with her charming husband, the composer and writer Norman Sachs. As a producer, Georgeanne is, of course, known for her love of Irish theater and film, and is currently enjoying her stateside production of the mega successful "A Night in November." At this point she is in Ireland visiting Morgan O’Sullivan at Ardmore Studios to set the wheels in motion for another Irish movie entitled, "Lipstick On The Host," to be directed by Nancy Malone.
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Also in the "looking wonderful" department was radio producer Peggy Webber McClory, there with her darling husband, Irish actor Sean McClory. After a few days respite from her usual hectic schedule, she is already back in action with a one-woman show on Virginia Wolf in Hollywood’s fame Cine-Grill restaurant on Nov. 14 and 15 at 1:30 p.m. She follows that up with "Little Women" before venturing into a radio production of "The Dead" in mid January, all to be aired on National Public Radio.
As I did the rounds of the theatrical gathering, I eventually bumped into the director of the show, Joe Dowling, with whom I had trained and worked back in Dublin. No doubt his artistic directorship of Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater is agreeing with him beautifully, as it is with his wife, former RTE host Siobhan Cleary. She is now executive producing and hosting her own show on PBS Channel 6 called "Health Diary."
Another welcome face from Ireland was singer Anne Bushnell, who manages to make me homesick in a heartwarming kind of way when she uses that wonderful Dublin term of endearment, "love." She is returning to Ireland soon to perform at the Edith Piaf 35th Anniversary Commemorative Concert on Nov. 20 in the National Concert Hall.
Making music of a different kind is Galwegian John Lyons, who was there with actress Lisa Eichhorn, Oscar nominee for "Yanks." Barely an El Nino-ed day in L.A., John has miraculously become a full-fledged agent with the selective Blake Agency, all in the space of nine months, and is now taking care of star careers such as Angie Dickerson, Stephanie Beecham, Frederick Forest and Maximillian Schell. Nice work, John.
Of course, all the cast and crew members were at the after-party in the Westwood Marquis, including Tony-nominate actress Dearbhla Molloy, feisty Kerry talent Derdrui Ring, Barbara Tarbuck, Abbey actor and soap star Thomas McGreevy, who is currently on "Babylon 5," producer Gill Cates, known for his production of the annual Academy Awards ceremony, John McDonagh, there on behalf of his playwright brother, Martin, who couldn’t make the premier, and, of course, Rosaleen Linehan, both delightful and delighted with life.
"The Cripple of Inishmaan" runs until Nov. 22 at Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse. For reservations, call (310) 208-5454.