sealPurdue News

February 20, 2003

McCourt Brothers' autobiographical play recalls Ireland

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – "A Couple of Blaguards," the autobiographical comedy written by novelists Frank and Malachy McCourt, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 6, in Loeb Playhouse.

Admission is $22 for general public, $17 for Purdue students and children K-12. Tickets can be purchased at Purdue box offices or charged by phone at (765) 494-3933 or (800) 914-SHOW. Tickets also are available at all Ticketmaster outlets. "A Couple of Blaguards" is presented by Purdue Convocations.

"A Couple of Blaguards" is a two-character comedy with incidental music. Like Frank's best seller, "Angela's Ashes," and Malachy's "A Monk Swimming," the play spans their years growing up in poverty in Ireland and their escape to America in search of a better life.

New York actors Howard Platt and James Sears play the McCourt brothers in this production.

From their poverty-stricken childhood in Limerick to their raucous adventures in New York City as they tried to make it in America, "the land of opportunity," this collection of stories is a potpourri of bittersweet recollections and humor with a quality of playfulness and lightheartedness built in through songs and poetry.

Though times were tough for the McCourt family of Limerick Lane, the tales spun by the Frank and Malachy characters in "A Couple of Blaguards" simmer with bittersweet and ferocious humor. The term "blaguards" is an affectionate Irish word for rowdy, outgoing and sometimes drinking sort of men.

The first act is devoted to their early years, their grim childhood in the town of Limerick where several siblings died young and their father retreated into an alcoholic haze. One scene is a poignant recollection of one little brother's funeral. The death and burial are described matter-of-factly, without placing any blame except on the poverty that trapped the entire family.

Yet, most of the evening remains firmly on the side of a good laugh, even when the boys are dealing with the biggest influence of their early lives – the Catholic Church. Frank's remembrances of his First Communion are touching and funny. Frank provides a nice counterpoint to Malachy's impersonation of his grandmother, a zealous woman who becomes fixated on her grandson's communion.

The second act concentrates on the McCourts' migration to the United States, their struggles to find work and their triumph over poverty by writing about their childhood. Frank became a teacher in New York City schools and Malachy worked as an actor and a bartender. After telling their stories to students and clients for many years for free, they decided to collect them and put them on the stage.

"There's nothing like growing up poor in Ireland and coming to America and getting rich talking about it," Malachy McCourt has stated about the success of their books, Frank's winning the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for his book "Angela's Ashes" and the making of a movie from the same title.

"A Couple of Blaguards" has had various productions since its creation more than 20 years ago, including an off-Broadway run.

"America likes winners, and there's a triumph over death and disease and despair, a triumph of the spirit," Malachy has said. There also is an inspiring resilience that he attributes to being able to laugh in the face of adversity. That's what he said he hopes will be passed along to audiences of "A Couple of Blaguards."

CONTACT: Larry Sommers, Purdue Convocations, (765) 494-5045,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A publication-quality photograph of Howard Platt and James Sears (from left) in "A Couple of Blaguards" is available at

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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