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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Stage Review

Colin Hamell keeps ‘Jimmy Titanic’ afloat

WATERTOWN — God has been many things on stage, but not, to my knowledge, a chain smoker. And though I can recall a long-ago student production of an English mystery play at the Loeb Experimental Theatre in which God forgot his lines and the Archangel Gabriel had to cue him, I don’t ever remember Gabriel demanding that Heaven-bound souls leave their coins and watches with him as they pass through the pearly gates. God and Gabriel are just two of some 20 delightfully outrageous characters — all portrayed by Colin Hamell — in Bernard McMullan’s darkly funny “Jimmy Titanic,” which after outings in New York and Philadelphia and at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater has come to the Arsenal Center for the Arts, in a Tír Na Theatre production helmed by former Súgán Theatre artistic director Carmel O’Reilly.

The play, which Hamell (who is also Tír Na’s artistic director) suggested to McMullan, starts out in heaven but flashes back to Belfast, where R.M.S. Titanic was built (and where McMullan was a journalist before becoming a playwright), and to the ship itself on the fateful night it struck an iceberg and went down. The primary characters are Belfast shipbuilders Jimmy Boylan and Tommy Mackey, who were on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. The title “Jimmy Titanic” is a reminder that most of the nearly 1,500 passengers who went down with the ship were not Astors and Guggenheims but crew members and poor emigrants looking for a better life in America.

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