Review: Poetry of Men in Two Pints by Abbey Theatre at Chicago Shakes

Liam Carney and Philip Judge. Photo by Ros Kavanagh.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Chicago Shakespeare brings us the esteemed Abbey Theatre (the National Theatre of Ireland) and a poetic two-handed conversation, Two Pints. The Irish pub holds a place in culture that we do not have in the states since so many of our neighborhood taverns have been displaced by “gentification.” The Irish pub serves as a community gathering place for generations to converse. It is not akin to our bars, which are dedicated more to the nameless pickup and avoiding conversation.

And so this iconic venue at Navy Pier becomes our stage: the audience is seated at tables in this “site sympathetic” work in the theater’s lobby bar that has been converted to a Dublin watering hole with Euro prices and football flags.  We, the observers, so close we could touch the actors, order our pints just as the two men, consummate multitalented actors Liam Carney and Philip Judge, belly up and order from the silent barman Laurence Lowry—who with no lines needs to speak volumes with a look. The conversation is rich and filled with gems, like a whole riff on which cancer would you choose, and many tributes to Nigella Lawson.

As we reckon with the western legacy of toxic masculinity, these two aging gents provide an aching counterpoint with Roddy Doyle’s quietly beautiful and very funny script. This is a small quiet work of astonishing power as two older men reflect on life and dying. It’s My Dinner with Andre for the working class. These fellows, obviously friends or neighbors for years, approach the bar and order pints on three days, as one of them lives through his father dying. These are quiet conversations in serious brogues, albeit with a great deal of swearing, and these fellows are deeply humorous and tragically sad—as is life—and their conversation has a kind of poetry of the street.  Simple, grand.

Playwright Roddy Doyle is a writer who captures the working class vernacular of the Irish the way that David Mamet captured working class America. Doyle conceived of this script as a touring production to take the Abbey Theatre out to the people where they live, and to be a part of this evening in this pub is to be transformed. You will laugh, you will be moved. You will want to return again, and listen more closely for the wisdom of fools. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate Irish culture.

You don’t have much time to experience this masterpiece: it only runs Tuesday through Sunday until March 31 and most performances are sold out. There are a limited number of seats; it’s a pub after all. For tickets and information go to the website or call 312-596-5600.

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Angela Allyn

Angela Allyn is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes ensemble building, community based arts and experience design. She writes about arts and culture for numerous publications and serves as Community Arts Coordinator at the City of Evanston.


  1. Liam Carney had many years of preparation for this part in The Norseman throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Good on ye, Liam!

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