Once at National Theatre

This post is written by contributor Leslie G. Shah

ONCE plays to the ways in which we see ourselves and the ways in which others see us. Once reminds us that love is not a chapter that closes, nor does one door need to close for another to open. Once encourages us to quite literally step on stage and celebrate with the actresses and actors that sing, play and delight us. Voice and dance bring to life old-timey instruments that show wear and attachment. Once is an energetic and enthusiastic acknowledgement of our moments and a reminder that always in this moment… us. There is at any given moment just this once.

Once is staged simply and quite wonderfully. The backdrop is fixed. Twenty to 30 mirrors illuminate the cast. Changes in lighting and set materials all at once make the stage a pub, Billy’s music shop, Da’s second floor flat, the surrounding hills and city lights of Dublin, and the churning energy of home found thousands of miles from the Czech Republic.

Superbly cast, Once stars Mackenzie Lesser Roy as “Girl,” not otherwise named, who is unhesitatingly earnest, encouraging, and in the moment; she is a young woman committed to her child and an unsure relationship to a man we never meet.  Sam Cieri, “Guy,” also with no other name, is so believably the sinking boat of which he sings. He begs to be seen and heard, rather than seen through. Cieri is a vessel, and with him we journey from a state of living with absence to a future as real as breath.  John Hays as “Billy” is hilariously in a constant tussle — he is a manic puppy at war with his tail and always ready for a rub.

Most of Once went over my 10-year-old daughter’s head, perhaps because her sense of self is not rooted in perceptions of self and other.  My daughter quickly got over her surprise of such ready use of swear words.  She agreed with me that the actors and actresses, most of whom are both musician and thespian, were phenomenal.

The cast plays for us with stomping feet, banjo, guitar, electric bass, and ukulele, accordion and concertina, harmonica, bows drawn across cello and violin, piano, and beats played on the box drum and a full drum kit.  It was an extraordinary night of live music and theatrical performance.

Once nudges us to push past our self-limiting beliefs, dares us to let go, and simultaneously remind us that love is near. In the mirror we see flat images of ourselves.  Once calls on us to be brave and let go of our own stories and open to something much greater — to see ourselves as we are seen in the eyes, ears, and hearts of another. In Once, the cards are not played too late, the cards are never too late to play.

Lose yourselves and find yourselves in Once.

Once musical discount

Discount for Once the musical on select seats

Know Before You Go:

  • There are four more shows for DC audiences, and tickets are $58-$98 a piece. Get them now. Once runs November 25 – 27, 2016 at the National Theatre in Washington, DC with Saturday and Sunday evening shows and matinees on both days.
  • The National Theatre is located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, facing Pennsylvania Avenue and overlooking Freedom Plaza.
  • Parking near the National Theatre is best to reserve via Parking Panda. Click here for $5 off your first parking reservation!