Irish Repertory production comes to the Playhouse

‘The Smuggler’ brings both laughter and some thought-provoking topics to the stage. 


With Irish wit and charm, Michael Mellamphy as Tim Finnegan, spins an enthralling yarn of crime, immigration, America’s struggling poor, corruption — and love — in the Irish Repertory Theatre’s production “The Smuggler” by the awardwinning play by Ronán Noone. The play is on stage at the M.V. Playhouse through Saturday, June 3. Mellamphy is a masterful storyteller using easily comprehensible rhymed couplets, which in fact, keep our ears tuned eager to hear what comes next.

Walking into the Playhouse, the stage is set with a bar and four tables of patrons, lucky audience members who will watch the story unfold as Finnegan serves them drinks that he mixes with aplomb — juggling bottles, ice, glasses, and the like — all while spinning the tale. The story takes place in a small coastal town off Cape Cod and, at heart, is about the moral dilemma of how far Finnegan, who adores his wife and young son, will go to care for his family. Survival means victimizing others, some of whom are suffering themselves while others seem deserving of their fate.

Through gestures and voice, Finnegan seamlessly plays the half-dozen or so other characters in a narrative that also includes conversations with seedy individuals at the bar, working alongside undocumented immigrants and a riotous battle with a crazed rat, among other twists and turns. I can promise, too, that in terms of plot, you won’t see the big reveal at the end.

While it’s an awful lot of fun watching Finnegan’s moral decline, this one-man tour de force

has a serious underlying social commentary. Artistic and executive director, MJ Bruder Munafo, who knows Noone well, says, “He has really strong views on immigration and being an immigrant, as well as the way he was treated, so a lot of this is based on his experiences. He is not afraid to examine the underbelly of some of them.” 

Ultimately, we are left wondering, is Finnegan a good guy in tough circumstances or a good guy gone bad? And what would we do in the same moral quandary?

Munafo wanted to produce “The Smuggler” here in 2020, but then the pandemic hit. This year, she went down to New York to see the Irish Repertory Theater’s production and felt it was perfect to bring to the Playhouse, and is pleased that it is the first time they have been on the Vineyard. As she says about the confluence, “It was perfect. And why reinvent the wheel?”

“The Smuggler” at the M.V. Playhouse through June 3 at 7 pm. See for tickets, or $30 cash rush tickets at the door.