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Long Islanders can be particularly proud on July 20, as Americans celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first human steps taken on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Many of the men and women who once worked at the Grumman Corporation in Bethpage, right here on Long Island, played a significant part in the project.

The aerospace engineering company, now known as Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, was integral in the design, assembly, integration and testing of the lunar module used in the Apollo 11 mission. In fact, by 1969 approximately 9,000 people, according to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, were working on the project. This team included 3,000 engineers, scientists, mathematicians and supporting technical personnel.

We owe a lot to the men and women of Grumman who played a part in the Apollo 11 mission and all lunar landing missions that followed. One small step for man led to giant leaps in technology. Among the technological advances to emerge from the Apollo missions, according to NASA’s website, is the AID implantable automatic pulse generator. Using Apollo technology, it monitors the heart continuously, recognizes the onset of a heart attack and delivers a corrective electrical shock. Developed by the company Medrad, it consists of a microcomputer, a power source and two electrodes that sense heart activity. When medically necessary, the product is available as an implant today.

Many Grumman employees still live on Long Island, and when our editors started asking friends and social media connections if they knew anyone who worked on the moon mission, we were surprised at how easy it was to find these people who worked on the lunar module or LM. One editor sat on the board of a nonprofit with one of the people we feature in this edition, and she never knew he played a role in such a historic event.

During this milestone anniversary, we hope our readers will take the opportunity to ask around and find out if anyone knows a family member or friend who worked on the mission. Their stories are interesting, and, as they are now in their 70s and 80s, we hope their memories will be passed down to not only family and friends, but to everyone. 

Imagine, just a little more than 50 years ago it was unfathomable that humans could put a person on the moon, but Americans did. The mission reminds us of what a group of people working in various fields can collectively accomplish. If we can put a man on the moon, maybe one day we’ll be able to figure out how to put an end to hunger even with a food surplus, cure cancer and convert our fuel economy to alternative, clean forms of energy.

Let’s remember that dreams do come true. What once seemed impossible was achieved. The spirit that captured our country enabled men and women to work together towards a common goal. 

With a common belief in ourselves as Americans, such a thing can happen again.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We spend our lives searching. We look for friends in elementary school with whom we can share a laugh or a meal. We seek the right clothing and supplies so that we fit in.

As we age, the searches change. We hunt for fulfilling jobs, long-term romantic or career partners, places to live, cars that will meet our needs, and homes in communities that will welcome us and our families.

Through all of these searches, people wander into and out of our lives. If we’re fortunate enough, we might know someone from the time we’re 3 years old with whom we continue to meet, laugh, and exchange work stories or ideas and challenges.

Sitting in cars waiting for our children to emerge from their orchestra rehearsals or milling about in the entrance to an auditorium after a concert, we may see the same familiar faces, smile at the people next to us, and appreciate how they have supported all of our children with equal energy and commitment, congratulating our son or daughter on their solos or appreciating the remarkable live performance they just witnessed.

As we age, we inevitably lose people. Some drift out of our lives when their interests diverge from ours, even though they remain in the same town. Others take jobs in a new state and follow a different schedule in a new time zone.

When our friends or family members die, the losses are permanent. Except in photos, videos and in our imaginations, we won’t see their faces, smell their perfume or hear their infectious and distinctive laugh echo around a room.

We often say to family members and close friends, “So sorry for your loss.”

While death is a loss, it’s also a reminder of what we found. The person who has left us may have attended the same school, lived on the same block or gone to the same conference many years ago. A blur of people enter and leave our lives, sometimes for as short as a few seconds because we give them change at a store or take their reservations when we’re working for a ferry company, or other times when we’re waiting with them at the DMV to get a new license in a new state. Other times, the people who will become an ongoing part of our lives find us, just as we found them.

Their death brings sadness and a hole in the fabric of our lives. Some cultures tear a hole in their garments to tell the world about the missing piece that comes with mourning.

These moments are also an opportunity to celebrate the fact that we forged a connection and that we played an important role in each other’s lives.

Connections begin when we reach out to strangers who become friends and to men and women who become life partners. Every day, we have the opportunity to appreciate what we’ve found in the people who populate our lives, the ones we choose to call to share the news about a promotion, those whose support and consideration remind us of who we are.

When we stray from a path that works, these found friends can bring us back to the version of ourselves we strive to be. Each loss reminds us not only of who that person was in general, but also of what we discovered through our interactions. These important people provide common ground and experiences and are as much a part of who we are as the image staring back at us in the mirror. We didn’t just find them. Ideally, we found the best of ourselves through the experiences we shared with them.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Today we report on two diametrically opposite faces of our nation. Interspersed here are some personal recollections of my own. Fifty years ago we Americans stood proud and together, our faces turned upward to the heavens, as the United States sent Apollo 11 to the moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong and Aldrin were to land on the surface in the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM, the creation of engineering wizardry by thousands of Grumman workers right here on Long Island.

An estimated 650 million people around the world watched spellbound on black-and-white television screens as the two astronauts took the first steps for a man on July 20, 1969, and the unprecedented leap into the future of space travel for mankind.

Until 1972, 24 people flew to the moon, none since then. But that was just the beginning of incredible discoveries and inventions, from miniaturizations to astrobiology. We have a satellite that has played host to other nations and enabled us to see around the world. Known as the International Space Station, we have used it to reach out into the solar system. And it will even become a regular destination for tourists shortly if entrepreneurs are to be believed.

A family gathers to watch the moon landing in 1969.

Meanwhile, as Armstrong and Aldrin were busy walking around on the moon, there was a tiny leap on Earth for our third son. He arrived from out of the womb at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson and at this time is enjoying a 50th anniversary of his own. We had arrived on Long Island only three weeks earlier from Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, where my husband had served for the preceding two years, and were busy working to establish our new lives here. 

Now you might think that the blessing of a new baby, along with the need to find a new home and rent a medical office might have overshadowed the miracle of the moon landing, but for me that event was high-voltage electric. 

Just before we left New York for Texas and my husband’s assignment, I had been working at Time-Life with Arthur C. Clarke, who had arrived from his Eden-like home in Ceylon — now Sri Lanka — to write a book called, “Man and Space.” Clarke, like the other writers of space discoveries and travel, had to write under the banner of science fiction in order to gain respectability. But the truth was that these authors believed what they wrote would come to pass, and fortunately for many of them they were alive to see it happen in the 1960s. And I was fortunate enough to be part of the excitement, a front row spectator of history, as we journalists are.

I, too, was caught up in the fervor of the coming moon shot. When Clarke parted, he went on to join Stanley Kubrick to co-write the script of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” considered today one of the best films ever made, and I to become the wife of an Air Force officer and then mother of three.

So we leave the incredible heights of American pride now and look at the other side of the coin. Elsewhere in our news, we have the press release from U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who went to the southern border of the United States with a small group from the House to see first hand what was happening at the immigration centers. In his words, the situation is “awful” and the system is “broken.” The group toured and inspected facilities that are currently holding Central American migrants seeking asylum, speaking with several immigrant families as they went.

According to first-hand reports, there is a humanitarian crisis at the border. Since only very few migrants are processed each day, many cross over the border illegally between points of entry, then turn themselves in to seek asylum. They come in such numbers that they greatly exceed capacity to house and care for them, and as such are living in deplorable conditions. 

These are our American concentration camps, where children have been separated from their parents. They are deserving of our shame. “America is better than this,” declared Suozzi, and we know that to be true. At one and the same time, we celebrate and rue our nation.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We make them before we even get up. We lie in our beds, staring at our alarm clocks, where we are faced with the first of countless decisions. Should we get up now or can we afford to wait a few minutes before climbing out of bed?

Decisions range from the mundane to the mind blowing: Do you want pickles, lettuce and tomatoes and what kind of bread would you like; you’re taking a pay cut so you can do what job exactly; are you sure you want to sell that stock today when it may be worth more tomorrow?

We rarely take a step back from the decision-making process because we generally don’t want to slow our lives down, leaving us less time to make other decisions.

Some of the decisions we make are through a force of habit. We buy the same ketchup, take the same route to work, wear the same tie with the same shirt or call the same person when we are feeling lonely.

Just because we have always done something one particular way, however, doesn’t mean we made the best choice, or that we considered how the variables in our lives have changed over time.

As we age, we find that our needs, tastes and preferences evolve. Our bodies may have a lower caloric demand, especially if we spend hours behind a desk. We might also be more prepared to debate or argue with our priest or rabbi, or we might have a greater need to help strangers or make the world a better place for the next generation. The way we make decisions today may be inconsistent with the way we made them for the younger versions of ourselves.

We may have some of the same tastes for movies or books that we had 20 years ago. Then again, we may place a higher value on experiences than we do on possessions.

Eating a particular food, calling a person who makes us feel inadequate or sticking with the same assignments or jobs is often not the best way to live or enjoy our lives.

Inertia affects the way we decide on anything from whether to vote Democratic or Republican to whether we would like pasta or salad for lunch. Sure, I could defy the old me. But then am I remaking a decision or remaking myself?

Ah, but there’s the real opportunity: We can follow the Latin phrase “carpe diem” — seize the day — and redefine and reinvent ourselves as long as we do it with purpose and focus.

Sure, that takes work and planning and we might change something for the worse, but maybe we would make our lives better or leave our comfort zone for greater opportunities. We can decide to take calculated risks with our lives or to move in a new direction. After all, we teach our children to believe in themselves. And if we want to practice what we preach, we should believe in ourselves, too, even on a new path.

Why should we put our lives on automatic pilot and sit in the back seat, making the same circles month after month and year after year? Some routines and decisions, of course, are optimal, so changing them just to change won’t likely improve our lives.

But for many decisions, we can and should consider climbing back into the driver’s seat. For a moment, we might cause our paths to rock back and forth, as if we shook the wheel, but ultimately we can and will discover new terrain.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

My parents married on July 4, 1925. It might seem counterintuitive for them to join each other on Independence Day, but back then to marry meant independence from one’s nuclear family. They were now off on their own, together ready to start a new branch of the family. And they began to have children. They were doing what had been done for only a few centuries before them, marriage being a fairly recent construct in humankind’s history.

Given statistics today, almost a century later, what they did seems almost quaint. Tucked into the back pages of The Wall Street Journal’s Business & Finance section, amid such stories about carmaker Tesla’s quarterly earnings and predictions about the future of tech stocks, is an article that would amaze my parents but speaks to our times: “Despite high costs, more women are interested in single motherhood,” by Veronica Dagher.

Not only are couples no longer feeling the need to marry before they have children. In today’s society, some women don’t need to be part of a couple before they embrace motherhood. Increasing wages for women create economic independence, and the share of women earning top salaries in high positions exploded 500 percent between 2008 and 2012. Women have gone from 1.9 percent among the top 0.1 percent of highest earners to 10.5 percent.

In 2017, according to the WSJ article, four in 10 births were to either solo mothers or mothers living with nonmarital partners. Fifty years ago, the number was one in 10. That means these four out of every 10 children are being raised without a father. That has got to have profound effect on those children. 

According to California Cryobank, a major sperm bank in the United States, about one-third of its clients are single mothers by choice. Further, the number has increased by 3 to 5 percent in the last five years. Rosanna Hertz, a Wellesley College professor, who wrote the book, “Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women are Choosing Parenthood Without Marriage and Creating the New American Family” (2006), has found that most of those mothers are college educated and earn roughly double the national household median of $110,000. But with rising salaries, not all single mothers are high-wage earners. Some have middle-class backgrounds and may even have more than one child.

What’s puzzling about this picture? Are we witnessing men being thrown away? I pray not. To paraphrase “South Pacific,” there is nothing like a man.

It’s understandable that single mothers may be single because they never found the right person to marry. Or they may be divorced or separated. Or widowed. Or they may have chosen not to marry. All of those reasons have to do with themselves. But according to Hertz, “there has been a notable increase in the number of women opting for this family structure in the 13 years” since she wrote her book. Since it takes both sexes to make a child, does a woman in good conscience have the right to knowingly deprive a child of a father because of an overwhelming maternal desire? Is it selfish or unselfish to procreate without a mate? Does boundless and unconditional love compensate?

There is a support group that deals with such issues. Called Single Mothers by Choice, it considers the emotional, financial, psychological and practical aspects of becoming a single mother. It also provides others in the same situation to talk with. To choose single motherhood is a hard and, incidentally, an expensive route. That was the thrust of the WSJ article. Right from the first step, there is no one with whom to share costs. Initial costs can range from several thousand dollars to six figures, and insurance is spotty.

It is certainly true that life does not always work out the way one would like. In fact, it almost never does. Too many bends to see around, too many roads not taken, too many disappointments. But I would just like to add a last thought from “The King and I”: Most men “can be wonderful.” 

An Italian immigrant family on board a ferry from the docks to Ellis Island, New York. (Photo by Lewis W Hine/Getty Images)

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We cry and laugh with movie characters, feeling their pain when their fictional lover runs away with the neighbor or laughing with them when they share a joke, slip and fall, or embarrass themselves during a public speech.

Long after we’ve put a book down, the characters join us as we commute back and forth to work. We feel the pain they experienced during World War II when they lost family members or neighbors. We are grateful that the main character who is battling his personal demons somehow survives unimaginable ordeals.

We stare into the faces of the huddled masses from pictures at Ellis Island, many of whom left the only home they’d ever known to start a new life in a place that has become, fortunately for so many of us, the only home we’ve ever known. We see the bags at the immigrants’ sides, the children in their arms who are our parents and grandparents, and the resolve in the arrivals’ eyes as they wait for their turn to pass through the gates to the New World.

We read about people whose lives touch us so profoundly that we send money through GoFundMe pages. We don’t have any need to ask them whether they drink Coke or Pepsi, whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican, or if they support France or the United States in the Women’s World Cup. We want something better for them.

What about all the people who surround us, who drive next to us on the same roads on the way to and from work, who stand in line with us at the movie theater, the deli or the Department of Motor Vehicles?

The people who share time and place with us are just as deserving of our sympathy, empathy and care, and yet we honk when the light turns green and they don’t go, we become irritated when they don’t understand our lunch order, and we snarl when our co-workers misunderstand an assignment.

I would like to suggest that we spend one day every year, maybe this publication day, June 27, appreciating people. Let’s call it People Appreciation Day.

This doesn’t and shouldn’t be a day when we trudge out to get a mass produced card that says, “Hey, I appreciate you.” This could be any level of appreciation we’d like to share.

We could take an extra second to thank the cashier at the supermarket, who asks us for our store card and wants to know if we found everything OK. We can thank her and ask how she’s doing. When she answers, we might react accordingly: “Oh, happy birthday” or “Sorry to hear about your cat” or “I sometimes miss the place where I grew up, too.”

Maybe instead of honking when the light turns green, we can imagine — the way we would if we were looking at the title of a movie or the cover of a book — what the driver inside is feeling, thinking or experiencing. How is that any different from caring about a two-dimensional stranger in a book we’re holding?

The people in our lives aren’t here to entertain or amuse us, but they can elicit our empathy, understanding and appreciation. We can, however, offer them the gift of care and concern.

We can appreciate their efforts to meet their basic needs and their desire to strive for something better for themselves and their children. These other people are dedicated teachers, determined athletes, a third-generation member of the military or a new neighbor from far away whose loneliness we can extinguish. Let’s take the time and put out the effort to appreciate them. When we do, we can benefit from the opportunity for people appreciation to forge a human connection.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Schools are out, or almost out, trees are lush with leaves, people are beginning to wear shorts and sandals, and the temperatures are finally approaching the high 80s. It seems to have stopped raining. The lines after dinner at ice cream parlors stretch out the door and down the street. Dogs have their tongues hanging out when being walked. And it’s light until almost 9 p.m. Summer, glorious summer, has truly arrived.

It has been many years since my children enjoyed summer break from school’s routine and therefore I with them. Yet the feeling of relaxation that summer ushers in still floods my being. This is the time to make a barbecue and invite friends, enjoy the summer sky over some nice port in the long evening, lounge in the backyard, splash at the beach, watch a baseball game, sleep in a bit and read, read, read those books and magazines that have piled up on the bedside table all year long. It’s also the time to sail, swim, play, get lost on long walks and, in so many other ways, rejoice in the outdoors. There is even time to think.

Here is something tantalizing to think about. A letter published on the website Medium.com Monday, written and signed by a group of 18 billionaires, from 11 families, including financier George Soros, co-founder of Facebook Chris Hughes, Abigail Disney and heirs to the Pritzker fortune, Liesel and Ian Simmons, urged government to tax them at a higher rate. They called for “a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans — on us.”

Over the last three decades, the wealth of the top 1 percent grew by $21 trillion. Who can even visualize such sums? But the wealth of the bottom 50 percent fell by $900 billion — not hard to visualize by comparison because we can see the effects on American lives. 

The letter follows a similar declaration by investment guru Warren Buffett in 2011 encouraging greater tax on the richest. He revealed that his effective tax rate was actually lower than that of any other 20 people in his office. 

The richest pay 3.2 percent of their wealth in taxes versus 7.2 percent from the bottom 99 percent. President Barack Obama (D) picked up the suggestion at the time and called for a 30 percent tax for that population, dubbing it the “Buffett rule.” Not only was that never enacted, the latest round of tax cuts under President Donald Trump (R) have particularly helped those same richest Americans.

The Monday letter was addressed to all presidential contenders. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. senator from Massachusetts and Democratic hopeful, has proposed a comparable strategy, recommending that those who have $50 million or more in assets, like stocks, bonds, yachts, cars and art, be subject to a wealth tax. That would include some 75,000 families and raise, in her estimation, $2.75 trillion over the next 10 years. That money could be put toward better child care, helping with education debt and the opioid and climate crises. Such a tax would strengthen American freedom and democracy and would be patriotic, it is claimed. Surveys show that about seven out of 10 people support this concept.

In 2014 Nick Hanauer, a successful Seattle entrepreneur, wrote a memo to “my fellow zillionaires” in which he advised the following: “[We are] thriving beyond dreams of any plutocrats in history, [while] the rest of the country — the 99.99 percent — is lagging far behind. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.”

How is that for some heady stuff to occupy the mind and lessen any lazy guilt as our bodies are stretched out on the lounge?

Melissa Marchese. Photo from SWR School District

One has to understand that journalists are human beings, and just as much as it pains people to learn about the death of a young woman, it can be even more painful to write about it.

Melissa Marchese, 18, died June 14 after being injured in a terrible car crash in Shoreham. She passed only two weeks before she was set to graduate high school.

Since then, the local community has rallied around the family, donating well over $60,000 for the Marchese family in a GoFundMe campaign in less than a week after the crash. Likely the community will continue to support the family even after graduation.

It is truly amazing to watch a community come out full force to support a grieving family but, even still, too many Shoreham and Wading River residents recognize the black cloud hanging over their hamlets. Nobody should have to read about a young person dying, but in Shoreham the situation is familiar, just all too familiar.

The community went through this grief in 2014, after Tom Cutinella died from receiving a head injury due to an illegal tackle on the SWR football field. In 2018, the community was again devastated after learning about the death of Andrew McMorris, who was killed by a drunk driver while hiking with his Boy Scout troop.

In both circumstances, the community rallied behind the families. The SWR football field and a new concession stand was renamed in honor of Tom, while a statue with brickwork done by an Eagle Scout was erected in his honor. In the case of Andrew, the Boy Scout troop has planted a new garden at the community center, where the scouts meet, while the community hung red ribbons on telephone poles, fence posts and mailboxes in his honor from Riverhead to Miller Place. These ribbons still flutter in the wind more than a half-year since he was killed.

Shoreham residents have talked to one TBR News Media editor about the black cloud hanging over the small North Shore community of Shoreham-Wading River. One resident succinctly described the circuitous nature of Shoreham’s grief and support in the community: “We’ve had too many opportunities to show what a great community we are.”

This tragedy reaches out beyond the community’s boundaries. It is in the nature of editorials like this one where we would ask people to take care, to always wait several seconds when the light turns green before making a move, to wear a seatbelt and to instill the importance of road safety in your kids, but those might be mere platitudes in the face of tragedy.

All these tragedies were preventable. If only the driver of the car that hit Melissa’s vehicle was not “distracted,” as he later told police. If only the man who went out drinking that one day in October 2018 hadn’t gotten in his car to drive. If only Tom was not tackled in such a way to collide with
his helmet.

But whatever happens, Shoreham needs to never lose its sense of community. Let it never become complacent and numb in the face of tragedy. Whenever we have talked to the families who’ve lost loved ones, each time they are comforted by how much the community has come out to support.

There may have been too many opportunities to show the humanity of local Long Island residents, but let us never stagger or fall in making sure we all remain compassionate for all who suffer.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Breaking up is spectacularly awkward, highly charged and, in retrospect, filled with humorous potential. Two people get together for a picnic, where a public scene might be difficult for the recipient.

“Want some tabouli? What is tabouli anyway?”

“No thanks, and I don’t know what it is. You ordered it, not me.”

“Good point, so, I was thinking. It’s probably a good time for us to separate.”

“Um, what, excuse me?”

The lip quivers, the breathing becomes short and erratic and the eyebrows, shoulders and neck all droop at the same time.

“No, yeah, I mean, you’re great and this has been a total blast but, you know, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s not working for me.”

“A total blast? You’d call this a total blast? Besides, nothing is perfect. I know my family can be difficult and I know I wake up with bad breath and I do, on occasion, correct your speech, but we can work around that. Don’t you want to try to make it work?”

“I’m thinking that it’s probably time to do other things. I’m thinking of moving to Vancouver and you hate the cold.”

“Vancouver? Really? Wait, have you been seeing other people? You and my sister get along a little too well. As soon as you start dating her, she won’t be interested. I know I share genes with her, but she’s a horrible person who has ruined my life over and over again.”

“No, really, this has nothing to do with your sister. I wouldn’t do that to you or myself, especially after what you just said.”

“Oh, so, now there’s something wrong with my sister? At least she’s not dumping me.”

“No, no, I think we have a great friendship and I’d like to stay in touch.”

“You’d like to stay in touch? After all we’ve been through, you’re offering me your friendship? You’re not even that good of a friend. You rarely listen and you forget all the important dates in the year and you always want to go to the same restaurants, even though we have so many other choices.”

“Right, exactly, I’m so boring, so maybe you’re ready to be done with me?”

“Why do we have to end it now? It’s not like I was expecting to marry you. I can’t imagine having a younger version of you in the house. You can somehow shoot baskets from all over a gym floor that land in a hoop, but you have no ability to throw the dirty T-shirt you wore to play basketball into a much larger hamper that’s also closer to the ground, even though you roll the shirt into a ball.”

“I agree. You could do so much better.”

“I’m sure there are plenty of better people out there, but we had some fun, right? We were supposed to go to that dinner next Saturday with the Smiths. They’re your friends, so maybe we should see what works between now and then?”

“It’s OK, I already canceled that.”

“What? That horrible person Jessica Smith knew you were going to break up with me before I did? How could you do this to me?”

“Sorry, I didn’t tell them anything. I just said we couldn’t make it.”

“We couldn’t make it because you were going to break up with me today over tabouli. You’re an idiot.”

“Right, well, maybe we shouldn’t stay in touch?”

“Oh, so now I’m not good enough to be your friend?”

“I’m going to be a boring idiot elsewhere.”

“Wait, you’re leaving me?”

“Yes, and I’ve googled ‘tabouli.’ It’s a Lebanese salad with vegetables, wheat and parsley, just so you know.”

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

One of the best plays I have seen on Broadway is the drama, “The Ferryman.” Written by Jez Butterworth, directed by Sean Mendes and playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre only until July 7, it is so deserving of winning four Tony Awards, including best play, and should not be missed. The story is about a large Irish family in rural County Armagh in Northern Ireland and conjures up Tennessee Williams and “August: Osage County” for its familial interactions of love, lust, betrayal, anger, contradictions, secrets, repression and murder. But it is so much more.

It is historic, being set in 1981 at the height of The Troubles involving the British, loyalist Irish Protestants who want to remain in the United Kingdom, and nationalist Irish Catholics, including the Irish Republican Army, who want a united Ireland.

It is a story about storytelling as three generations live under one roof of a large farmhouse and slowly reveal much about their own histories. It is about human kindness, as personified by the appealing leading character, farmer Quinn Carney, husband and father of seven children ranging in age from 16 years to nine months. He houses and employs Tom Kettle, an Englishman, whose mind is not all there, as his handyman; and Caitlin, wife of Carney’s long-missing brother and her son, Oisin, as well as aged aunts and an uncle. Yet Carney is also a former active member of the IRA, with its brutality and bloodshed, which he has ultimately rejected. It has homey fairy tales and classic epics in the mix, hopeless love, and lots of barroom talk and drinking, happy celebrating and passionate confrontations. Amid all that activity, with a cast of well-defined characters, it has genuine, laugh-out-loud humor.

The play is also remarkable for its length. It runs three and a quarter hours with only one 15-minute intermission after Act 1 and a three-minute dimming of the house lights following Act 2. Yet not for a minute, for me and my companions, did it keep from being riveting as it pulsated with suspense interspersed with hearthside family goodness that is set against the background report of Irish Republican hunger strikers dying one by one in a Belfast prison.

There are even live animals in the form of an affectionate goose, a feral rabbit and a real, sweet baby. Artfully they all come together to deliver a memorable play and to live in the minds of the viewers well past the end of the performance.

The prologue, set against a crumbling, graffiti-splayed urban wall, sets the sinister mood with an encounter between craven Father Horrigan and Muldoon, a major figure in the IRA. And every subsequent scene in which the priest appears seethes with tension. He delivers the news that Seamus, Caitlin’s missing husband, has been found face down, preserved by the acid in a bog, hands tied behind him and a bullet in the back of his head. The mystery of his disappearance deepens because he was not involved in The Troubles.

There is an Aunt Pat and Uncle Patrick, as well as an often mentally absent Aunt Maggie, whose roles are largely to unveil past history even as their passions define them as three dimensional characters within the family and their country. Their narratives give their lives shape and substance.

With the discovery of the body, the past meets the future as Muldoon attempts to contain the truth of the missing husband’s murder from emerging. In the process, other truths seep out in the appropriately furnished great room of the farmhouse that serves as the only site where all subsequent action takes place.

In the beginning, the viewer is puzzled as to who the family members are and their relationships to each other, which create an air of mystery. As the plot develops, the answers powerfully emerge, carrying us along, absorbed and engaged. And while the plot is masterfully orchestrated, I don’t want to give away the most important details in the hope that you will still get tickets and join me in your admiration for a remarkable play.

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