The role of the pub in rural Ireland and the impact of gossip on a tight-knit community are central to Irish-American writer Tim McGillicuddy's new play "Herself," which is currently running as part of the Origin 1st Irish theater festival. 

Directed by Hamilton Clancy, the comedic yet dark play follows a prodigal daughter who returns to Ireland to take over the running of a local pub following the death of her brother, who has drunk himself to death while coping with vicious rumors circulating in the community. 

Expertly exploring themes of suicide, alcoholism, and grief, "Herself" also studies the role that the pub plays in rural Irish communities. 

McGillicuddy's play is set in Galway, but this could have taken place in any Irish town, exploring the constant battle between progress and tradition as a local developer seeks to convert the pub into a modern waterfront development. 

The ambitious plan splits the local community, creating tension between those lured by the prospect of new jobs and regular customers who treat the pub as the focal point of their social life. 

Produced by the Drilling Co., the play takes in an intimate setting at the Gural Theatre at A.R.T New York, placing audience members on either side of the central stage. 

Herself features several laugh-out-loud moments, but also explores a number of deeper themes and taboo subjects, including an intimate relationship between a priest and a member of the lay community. 

At its core, the play is a study of small-town gossip and the effects it can have on people and their relationships, showcasing the detrimental impact that rumors can have on a person's mental health. 

The play begins at the wake of local bar owner Jim Hayes, who has drunk himself to death while struggling to cope with mental health issues.

A group of devoted customers has gathered for the wake and now frets about the future of their beloved local.

The group embodies many of the issues facing the town. 

Brenda (Mary Linehan) is a local nurse engaged to construction worker Aiden (Patrick Hart), but their relationship is strained by gossip and jealousy. 

Matthew (Dave Marantz) is a local contractor torn between the development of the waterfront and the love of his local pub. 

Mary (Úna Clancy) serves as the pub's storyteller and helps to spread gossip about the unpopular property developer Martin Hayes (Hamilton Clancy). Hayes enjoyed a loveless relationship with his son before his death and now seeks to convert the pub into a new development. 

He must reckon with his daughter Maureen (Kathleen Simmonds), who has returned home from her distant life in New York for her brother's funeral and is now tasked with running the dilapidated pub. 

Simmonds gives a powerful performance in the lead role, challenging her father at every turn and thwarting his plans to take over the waterfront. 

The performance of the ensemble cast is equally powerful, with notable performances from Clancy and Hart. 

Drew Valins, who plays bartender Paddy in the production, also gives an excellent performance as a grieving friend who tries to prevent relationships from falling apart in the wake of Jim's death. 

Herself is a study of people and relationships, with stellar performances all-round. The play runs at the Gural Theatre until April 20.