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THEATER REVIEW ARISTOCRATS. By Brian Friel, directed by Ben Barnes. With Mark Lambert, Donna Dent, Alison McKenna, Frank McCuster, Catherine Byrne, William Roberts, Joe Gallagher, Eamon Kelly. Set by Christopher Oram, costumes by Joan Bergin, lights by Rupert Murray. Gate Theatre Dublin at the Lincoln Center Festival 99, LaGuardia High School, Amsterdam Avenue at 65th Street. Through Sunday. Seen Wednesday.
FOR THOSE OF US who never quite understood why Brian Friel is called "the Irish Chekhov," here is "Aristocrats" to explain - if not actually justify - the compliment.
Instead of the grasping, fading gentility of elite pre-Revolutionary Russian provincials, Friel gives us the last gasps of a mid-'70s family dynasty in the decaying "big house" overlooking Friel's favorite imaginary village of Ballybeg. Rather than merely three discontent sisters, Friel offers three dislocated sisters and an unhappy brother - a Catholic clan gathered at the manse for a wedding that (in eerie coincidence with this week's Kennedy disaster) turns into a funeral.