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‘Maz and Bricks’ Review: Marching for Rights, With Signs of Romance

Aboard a tram crawling through Dublin, Maz fills in the bold block letters on a protest sign for the march she’s about to join. Across from her, a guy in track pants yammers loudly into his phone — some strutting, ridiculous mess about having slept with his ex’s cousin the night before.

His name is Bricks, and he is not, I repeat not, the kind of man to make Maz swoon. He repels her; she makes that clear the instant he hangs up and aims his stream of talk her way. But this is a meet-cute. Fluttering hearts are destined to follow.

Such a sensation of foreordination is hard to shake, alas, in Eva O’Connor’s “Maz and Bricks,” a rom-com caper wrapped in an argument for abortion rights, the cause Maz is marching for.

Part of Origin Theater Company’s 1st Irish Festival, the play is set during the run-up to one of Ireland’s most dramatic moments in recent history: the 2018 vote, by a two-thirds majority in that heavily Roman Catholic country, to repeal its abortion ban.

A two-hander directed by Jim Culleton for the Dublin-based Fishamble: The New Play Company, “Maz and Bricks” was first staged in 2017, as the civic debate was underway. Performed all over Ireland, it surely had a different power then, making a case for the value of women’s lives.

Even now, at 59E59 Theaters, it is interesting for what it captures roiling beneath the surface of a nation about to surprise itself. But there are peculiar gaps in the story, places where it’s hard to see why something would happen if the playwright, who plays Maz, weren’t pulling the strings.

Bricks (Ciaran O’Brien), so called because he chucked one through a window at age 12, is opposed to abortion. After all, he says, he has a 4-year-old he adores. In fact, he has her “Frozen” backpack with him as he taunts Maz nastily. But when Maz’s marker runs out before she has finished her sign, he plucks another from his daughter’s backpack and lends it to her.

“Go on, she’d want you to have it,” he says. “You remind me of her, how headstrong you are.”

It’s far too easy to be credible. So are the orchestrated events that follow, as Bricks — the kind of guy who uses the word “feminazi” — joins Maz on the march before they veer from the route for some madcap adventuring. There is meant to be a romantic spark and sexual magnetism between them, but we don’t see those in these performances.

Maz and Bricks are both damaged souls, she estranged from the mother who failed to protect her from sexual abuse, then blamed her for it; he unable to accept the death of his beloved brother a year before. They speak of their separate traumas in monologues peppered with rhyme, which sounds natural in O’Brien’s mouth, self-conscious in O’Connor’s.

By the end, Maz and Bricks are more compassionate people, he of course converted to her cause. But if there has come to be a lovely rapport between them, the trouble is, they didn’t create it on their own.

Maz and Bricks
Through Feb. 2 at 59E59 Theaters, Manhattan; 646-892-7999, 59e59.org. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

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