The Citiblog

Review: Aristocrats Can Be a Royal Pain
January 22, 2024, 5:56.29 pm ET


Photo: Jeremy Daniel

By Brian Scott Lipton

Although Brian Friel’s 1979 drama “Aristocrats” has earned some very significant awards over the years, including the Evening Standard for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle for Best Foreign Play, it has never had a Broadway mounting unlike many of the Irish dramatist’s other works.

So curious theatergoers owe a debt of gratitude to the beloved Irish Repertory Theatre and director Charlotte Moore for offering up its second production of the play -- it was previously done in 2009 – as part of the Friel Project. It’s a thoughtful, sometimes moving, and decidedly talky work in the vein of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” dealing with class distinctions, a changing country, and a dysfunctional family.

However, awards aside, “Aristocrats” is simply not nearly as well written as that Russian masterwork and demands constant attention and a careful ear to understand all its nuances, especially as Friel drops key details as mere asides that are easy to miss (including the fact that there are two more family members than we first realize.) Continue reading...