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'Luck of the Irish' review: Heartbreaking

Dashiell Eaves and Amanda Quaid, in a scene

Dashiell Eaves and Amanda Quaid, in a scene from the LCT3 production of "Luck of the Irish," currently performing off-Broadway at the Claire Tow Theater in Manhattan. Photo Credit: AP

Pay no attention to the title of "Luck of the Irish," lest you get the entirely wrong idea about Kirsten Greenidge's smart and lovingly observed heartbreaker about a black family's life over 50 years in an all-white Boston suburb. And if this time-traveling description of race and real estate sounds like the plot for Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize-winning "Clybourne Park," forget that, too.

Where Norris wrote a tight, dazzling social satire with sympathy for none, Greenidge has created a sprawling, multiethnic, multigenerational conflict rich with genuine compassion for every side of this painful history of class and ethnicity.

The subject is "ghost-buying," an under-the-counter way for blacks to get into better neighborhoods by having white people sign the title.

Greenidge, a masterly storyteller whose well-received "Milk Like Sugar" struck me as slightly old news, seamlessly introduces us to the doctor and wife who go through these machinations to buy a beautiful house on a hill in the '50s. But first we meet their adult granddaughters, who have inherited the house, and all its mixed blessings, from Lucy, their grandmother -- the statuesque and subtly radiant Eisa Davis.

The cast is wonderful. Mimi Lien's simple set of grass and Plexiglas somehow makes the time changes feel lucid, luscious and dangerously exposed. Under Rebecca Taichman's emotionally acute direction, nine characters try to live out their incompatible dreams with an individuality that never feels generic. When the hardscrabble, resentful Irish wife (Amanda Quaid) sets up a meeting in a diner to confront Lucy, Taichman makes the poor woman drag in the booth herself. Perfect.

WHAT "Luck of the Irish"

WHERE Claire Tow Theater, Lincoln Center

INFO $20; 212-239-6200;

BOTTOM LINE Smart and compassionate new drama

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