What exactly is a "blaguard"?
"The word came from the workers on coal ships: they were
black guards" Malachy McCourt explained in his
book crammed Upper West Side apartment.
"They would get filthy and drink a lot of Guinness and get
into high jinks. They were ruffians of the worst sort. But
then the word became an affectionate term for a rogue, a
Its said in admiration, now," older brother Frank
agreed a few evenings later, a smile creeping across his
usually deadpan face, "A boyo, a playboy."
The McCourt brothers mother - the Angela of
"Angelas Ashes," Franks Pulitzer Prize winning
memoir about his impoverished youth - used the light epithet
often enough on her two eldest sons to prompt them to name a
musical-comedy revue about their youth "A Couple of
Audiences might recognize anecdotes from "Angelas
Ashes" and Malachys memoir about his adventures in
America, the best-selling "A Monk Swimming." But
"Blaguards," now in preview at the Triad Theatre, came
The show was crafted in the early 1908s. "One year, during
the holidays, we were having a rollicking good time
remembering things, absolutely collapsing with laughter,"
Malachy recalled, "and Frank said to me, "We should put this
bloody thing on the stage."
So Malachy, an established actor in New York, worked his
connections and the brothers began performing around town,
initially improvising. They later took the show on the road,
touring across the country and abroad for more than a
Even after Frank had scripted it, the show continued to
"Something would trickle in unexpectedly, some ad lib or bit
of tomfoolery," he said, explaining how audiences also got
into the act. "In Chicago, Irish Catholics were like
Elizabethan groundlings. Theyd call out, especially in
scenes having to do with religion.
It was hilarious. There were times I would crack up on stage
and find it hard to go on."
The blaguards brother were also well received in their
native Ireland, "except for one man, who took great
exception to it," Malachy said. "He said, Two sons of
Limerick disgracing the good name of the city, using the
stage to dip into verbal pollution. We loved it! We
put up his comment on the outside of the theater!"
The actors assume the roles of numerous characters in the
McCourt brothers lives - their crotchety grandmother,
a malaprop-spewing politician, the New York University
admissions officer who was persuaded by Frank to admit him
though he lacked a high school diploma - and incorporate
robust songs, as well.
By Sarah Saffian