With Finnegan's Farewell, it looks like producer Joe Corcoran has another hit show on his hands; it joins the seemingly indestructible Tony n' Tina's Wedding as another interactive theatrical treat for New Yorkers and tourists alike. Like Tony n' Tina, Finnegan's Farewell starts in a church and then moves on to a nearby restaurant for a post-ceremony buffet. And--again like Tony n' Tina--Finnegan provides audience members with plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with the eccentric and outrageous members of an unsurpassingly ethnic (read stereotyped) clan--before, during, and, especially, after the evening's supposed main event.
This time they're Irish, not Italian. So the food, which is plentiful and tasty, is corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. The libation, which is available at a convenient though slightly pricey bar in the rear of the restaurant, tends more toward beer than wine. And the family drama--a silly, somewhat contrived thing about Finnegan drunkenly falling off a ladder and dying shortly after winning a million dollar jackpot in Atlantic City--features feuding siblings, a bereaved widow, and a mysterious mini-skirted woman of a certain age who may or may not have been an intimate associate of the deceased.
Actually the writing is fairly sharp, particularly in the funeral sequence, what with the whimsical priest making all manner of bizarre allusions to the likes of Kierkegaard and Oprah Winfrey, and the sudden but not-too-surprising appearance of a long-lost relative. It's a pretty carefree (and careless) service, though; and happily, the story is quickly forgotten by the time we settle in at the restaurant for part two of the evening, The wake rapidly morphs into a diverting variety show, featuring musical turns from many of the Finnegans and their friends. Highlights include some attractive crooning from the elder Finnegan boy, an impressive specialty number by Finnegan's son-in-law, and the dazzling footwork of Finnegan's elder daughter, who is joined by five spirited and talented young ladies who call themselves The River Kids.
Finnegan's Farewell is good-natured, light-hearted fun: an easygoing hybrid of dinner theatre, improv comedy, and cabaret that delivers smiles on the faces of all participants--actors and audience alike. Come prepared to eat, drink, and be merry, and to engage in some relaxed and non-threatening conversation and activity with the appealing cast members. Follow directions and relax, and you'll have a good time: you might even find yourself bringing your date onto the dance floor for the evening's cheery finale.
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