Irish Authors Held Hostage The Bodega at The Trading Post

Remaining Performances: Saturday, July 25 @ 11 p.m. Sunday, July 26 @ 2:15 p.m.

They say: “It’s back! The war on terror takes a hilarious turn as Irish authors from the ages are kidnapped by terrorists of every stripe. Expect no victims in this wicked romp that lampoons beloved writers and hated terrorists, or vice versa.”

Hilary’s take: Perhaps—given this show’s 2003 premiere at the Washington Theater Festival and its 2006 stint at the Warehouse Second Stage—it wouldn’t be fair to the newer, unvetted Fringe acts to hail J.T. Burian Theatricals’ IAHH as the most brilliant (in the ‘cross the pond exclamatory sense) production of 2009’s fest. But in an era held hostage by relics of Dubya’s terror-mongering, “fair”is so last century. Besides, Oscar Wilde (John Morogiello) had me at “I don’t care what you do to me so long as it’s BEAUUUUTIFUL!”

Playwright/actor Morogiello is a comic genius and IAHH the product of his literary sensibilities (okay, nerdiness) and disgusting talent. In less than 90 minutes, Morogiello crystallizes nine of Ireland’s most famous scribblers in caricatures based on astute textual interpretation. Ridiculous though Samuel Beckett or Frank McCourt (both skewered to perfection by Terence Aselford) may be onstage, Morogiello’s subjects are only as absurd as their scripture allows. I really wouldn’t put it past McCourt, author of interminably depressing memoir Angela’s Ashes, to get into a pissing contest with a Somali pirate over whose tortured childhood was indeed more torturous. Sorry Frank, but I think subsisting off half-eaten sandwiches left by documentary film crews beats gobbling garbage and sipping cabbage tea.

Don’t know diddly about James Joyce or Brendan Behan? Unfamiliarity with pub scrawlers is not a huge problem; in the best program I’ve ever read, J. Thaddeus Burian provides a brief, Swiftian rundown of the play’s authors for “the less intelligent members of our audience.” Such patrons may also find enjoyable “International Terrorism: The Game!” located just after the educational bits in the pamphlet. (Hint: The answer is “Power.”)

Sure, the hostage sketch done nine times over may sound like a bore, but Morogiello mixes it up with sub-plots and a recurring tormentor (played gamely by Terence Heffernan). Ninety minutes came and went, and only then did I realize I could hear the music from The Apothecary downstairs in the sweltering Bodega. Nothing else I’ve sampled at Fringe can touch IAHH‘s the trifecta of lacerating wit, flawless delivery, and superb performances from the entire cast (Morogiello’s recurring Yeats was a highlight, as was Lori Boyd’s turn as Lady Gregory). You haven’t Fringed until you’ve seen Wilde clutch his chest at the sight of a “dark, rugged” jihadist bent over in prayer.

See it if: You have $15 and you’d love to know what really kept everyone waiting for Godot.

Skip it if: Belly laughing makes you nauseous.