By the Bog of Cats

From 03/12/2009 to 04/05/2009


Set in rural Ireland, By The Bog of Cats mixes the trademark dark humor of the Irish with an uncompromising tale of abandonment and shocking self-sacrifice. Hester Swane (Virginia Burke) is an Irish “tinker,” a woman born of gypsies, and tied to the bleak landscape of the bog where she has lived her whole life. Her younger lover, Carthage Kilbride (John Catron), with whom she has a daughter, is on the verge of a marriage to another woman that will bring him land, wealth and respect. Refusing to acknowledge that Carthage could ever leave her, Hester grips more tightly and tragically to the life she believes is rightfully hers.


The reviews are in.

“From beginning to end it’s consistently difficult to tear one’s eyes away from Burke’s portrayal of Hester’s struggle, especially towards the latter half of the show when Jeff Bartlett’s masterful lighting illuminates her visage like a demon possessed.”… The result is an intoxicating journey whose mysteries unroll into other mysteries, …completely gut-wrenching in its absoluteness. In the end, Bog of Cats ends up being a first-rate downer—but one that touches the soul.” –

“In many respects, By the Bog of Cats is a by-the-numbers tale of a woman who shacked up with a younger lover, had a child by him, and is subsequently dumped for a younger woman. What raises it above the level of a Lifetime melodrama is Marina Carr’s exquisitely lyrical writing and some superb acting by Virginia Burke as the hellion Hester, and Annie Enneking as Catwoman, a blind gypsy who lives by the bog, eats mice, and communes with ghosts. (No one eats mice in a Lifetime movie.).. Virginia Burke gives Hester enough heart that you can feel her pain, and Annie Enneking’s Catwoman provides enough laughs to keep the play from getting too mired in melancholy.” —

“..Carr’s work is nearly flawless, economically ratcheting up the tension without resorting to clichéd characters or overly sensationalized moments…the play really belongs to Hester Swane and, as played by Virginia Burke, the character is utterly riveting. At any one moment Burke is poised to turn Hester’s countenance from menace to sadness, continually hinting at the deep emotional fissures beneath her hardened façade… Burke clearly understands that sympathetic underpinning, hooking the audience with an empathetic portrayal charged with emotion….Special mention must also be given to the role of Hester’s daughter, Josie. Two young actresses, Sulia Altenberg and Izzy Rousmaniere, will be playing the role in alternating performances…. extraordinary talent and tact.. the performances, storyline, and themes ..resonate.. strongly enough to make a forceful impression…” — TC Examiner

“When a show uses “Medea” as its starting point, you go in knowing it will be a rough ride,­ and Marina Carr’s “By the Bog of Cats” doesn’t disappoint in that, or any other, category. In the more-than-capable hands of Frank Theatre, which has spent 20 years bringing the difficult to the stage,­ the play becomes a wild carnival ride… Carr’s terrific script is a fine starting point, but the work truly comes alive in the hands of Frank director Wendy Knox and a talented cast of performers, led by Virginia Burke as the wild Hester Swane…Strong performances are the order of the day with the rest of the cast, including excellent turns by Bob Davis, John Carton, Melissa Hart and especially Annie Enneking as the local witch/medium/pick your title, the Catwoman… The show is also buoyed by excellent costumes and set, and a wonderful soundscape by Michael Croswell, which brings the unearthly qualities of the Bog of Cats to life.” –

“…a moody and chillingly effective staging under director Wendy Knox,.. and Virginia Burke’s after-the-fact keening chills through the bone and drills into the marrow — capping her kinetic, square-jawed reading of Hester that demands our understanding..” –

“The last Frank Theatre production I saw in the Dowling Studio was the Ivey Award-winning The Pillowman, one of the best shows I saw anywhere in 2007. To kick off their 20th season, Frank Theatre is back in the Dowling with Irish playwright Marina Carr’s By The Bog of Cats. Theater-goers expecting the same high standards and intensity they’ve grown accustomed to from Frank will not be disappointed… There are many outstanding performances here including Burke as tragic heroine Hester, Catron as Carthage, Annie Enneking as Catwoman, Melissa Hart as Mrs. Kilbride and Bob Davis as Xavier Cassidy….” —

“..not much more than a kitchen-sink drama…” –