ELGIN, PENDLETON — Two women will each make a choice to define their lives in two plays set in two rural areas of Ireland and performed in two Eastern Oregon cities this month.

Opera House Shakespeare Company presents “The Luck of the Irish” at the Hale Turner Little Theater in Elgin on March 10-12 and 17-19, and at the Vert Little Theater in Pendleton on March 31 and April 1-2.

Described as “an evening of entertainment,” “The Luck of the Irish” will feature Irish music, dance and poetry, as well as two one-act plays by Irish playwright John Millington Synge: “Riders to the Sea,” a tragedy, and “In the Shadow of the Glen,” a dark comedy.

“It’s really a sort of celebration of the Irish and the Emerald Isle and particularly of this playwright who I think is underappreciated,” director Grant Turner said. “There seems to be a tug of war between is this fate, is this our destiny, or do we manifest our own destiny.”

At the time they were first performed, 1903 and 1904, the plays were scandalous because of the themes that captured changing views in Ireland and the struggle between tradition and change. Turner said experiencing the plays now provides a lens into what life was like in Ireland in the time period.

“On one hand, you can identify with these characters and the choices they have to make, and on the other hand, the choices are very specific to the characters and the setting within the play. We can appreciate the journey these women go through and then thank our lucky stars that we don’t have to make them any more,” Turner said.

Uncommon for the time period, both plays center on a female character and her choices.

“In each play, it’s the woman’s play. It’s her story,” Turner said.

“Both are deeply entrenched in history and traditions. They’re art, but they’re crafted and steeped in the everyday realities of Ireland at the time, both brutal and magical.”

The small cast, four in each play, features actors familiar to audiences in both Elgin and Pendleton: Carly Elder (Beauty and the Beast, Little Women), Dutch Meerdink (Beauty and the Beast, Little Women), Karen Taylor (Matilda, The Sound of Music), Cassandra Johnson (The Importance of Being Earnest, Othello), Anne Turner (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet), Chris Dennett (Matilda, School of Rock) and Brady Morgan (Beauty and the Beast, Romeo and Juliet).

In “Riders to the Sea,” Karen Taylor takes on the role of the main character, a woman who lives on the coast of Ireland and lost her husband and five sons to the sea.

“She is a very interesting and challenging character to play. All of my previous shows were musicals, so this one act play is a great opportunity for me to focus on other elements of theater,” Taylor said. “’Riders to the Sea’ has incredible depth for such a short play. It is a haunting story about loss, but it also includes themes like humankind versus nature and the interplay of religion with superstition. It’s the type of play you think about for a long time after you see it.”

Following “Riders to the Sea” is “In the Shadow of the Glen,” a play Turner describes as one of the most charming plays you’ll ever see. The main character in “In the Shadow of the Glen” is played by Carly Elder.

“I play Nora, a farmer’s wife who has lived a very lonely, isolated life out in the middle of nowhere in early 20th-century Ireland. I can’t reveal much without spoiling the plot, but the play takes place at a pivotal moment for Nora — her life completely changes in an instant and she has to decide how to proceed,” Elder said.

The small cast and character-driven stories lend themselves to small stages, and both performance venues for “The Luck of the Irish” — the Hale Turner Little Theater and the Vert Little Theater — will bring the audience close to the action.

“My favorite thing about this show is the intimacy of both plays,” Elder said. “Both stories are about ordinary people navigating extraordinary situations, and with the super-small cast, I think the audience will be able to feel like they’re right in these little cottages with us.”

“The Luck of the Irish” runs March 10-12 and March 17-19 at the Hale Turner Little Theater in Elgin. In Pendleton, catch the show March 31 and April 1-2 at the Vert Little Theater in Pendleton.

Showtimes for both venues are 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are available at www.elginoperahouse.com.

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