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Footlight brings us a celebration of Irish art, music ... and beer

The Irish Invasion

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So what do a career-minded Liverpudlian lady and a salty, rustic Irishman have in common?

Well, in the Footlight Players' summer offering, Sea Marks, the pair have nothing in common at all — except for a once-in-a-lifetime love affair.

Sea Marks, by the Irish playwright Gardner McKay, is the story of Timothea Stiles and Colm Primrose, two star-crossed lovers from vastly different backgrounds. Timothea is a woman of the world, who loves her career as a publisher's assistant in busy coastal Liverpool.

Colm, on the other hand, is an Irish fisherman whose living arrangements hearken back to about a hundred years ago: his home is on the desolate-seeming Irish coast, where he passes his time on land without a single modern convenience. Between that and the sea, there's no hustle and bustle in Colm's life.

But when the two meet by chance, sparks fly, letters are written, and a deeply romantic epistolary relationship ensues. Timothea finds that Colm's writing is poetic and, even better in her world, publishable. He moves to Liverpool to become "the Irish Robert Frost" — with the added responsibilities of television appearances and radio interviews.

The play's a great fit for Charleston in particular, with its coastal setting and the constant, albeit amicable, tension between tradition and modernity that throbs nearly everywhere on the peninsula.

Inside grand old houses sit WiFi-rigged cafés chock-full of laptops and iPhones, while brand new bungalows offering the ultimate in modern living rise above the cobblestone street. The two appear to mix almost seamlessly.

But then there's that spot on East Bay Street where you can look down Rainbow Row and see the timeless homes and the very modern vehicles parked in front of them. That's when those seams split.

Now what would happen between two people dealing with similar clashes? That's what Sea Marks is all about.

Directed by Ellen Leigh Murray — a former film producer in Los Angeles — Sea Marks stars Laura Rose and Mark Poremba, a real-life husband and wife. The couple were married just a few weeks ago.

To further celebrate the Irish-ness of this very Irish play, the Footlight Players and the production's sponsors, Tommy Condon's Irish Pub and the South Carolina Irish Historical Society are offering Irish music, art, and after-parties in addition to the theatrical production.

Each night will feature performances of Celtic music by Robert Taylor, director of the Irish Symphony Chorus, and fiddler Mary Scott Taylor, director of the Charleston-based fiddle group Na Fidleiri.

As for after-parties, both Tommy Condon's on Church Street and O'Malley's on King Street will play host to cast, crew, and theater enthusiasts each night after the show. Rest assured, the Guinness will be flowing!

So, should you find yourself hankering for some affordable theater now that Spoleto has come and gone, or for some good old-fashioned melancholy romance — or maybe you're a homesick Irish expat in need of some reminders of home — you may want to check this one out.

And as we all know, July and August generally don't offer a wealth of theater-going opportunities, so get in your play time while you can, and go Celtic for a night while you're at it.

Your liver might not thank you, but your spirit most definitely will.

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