Thursday, June 13, 2013

29. Review of THE WEIR (June 13, 2013)



Conor McPherson’s liltingly written THE WEIR, first produced in London in 1997, and brought to Broadway in 1999, is being given a finely calibrated, lovingly designed, and expertly performed revival at the Irish Repertory Theatre under Ciarán O’Reilly’s sensitive direction. This 90-minute, intermissionless drama, named for a kind of dam, is set in a tiny but naturalistically detailed Irish village pub, designed by Charlie Corcoran, atmospherically lit by Michael Gottlieb, where youthful bar owner (or publican) Brenden (Billy Carter) presides over a gang of local guzzlers and old friends, Jack (Dan Butler), an aging mechanic and garage proprietor; Jim (John Keating), Jack’s bushy-haired assistant, and Finbar (Sean Gormley), a successful hotelier.

             All have the gift of blarney, which they dramatically demonstrate when Finbar, who has sold her a local house that has been vacant for some years, brings into their midst a pretty young woman in her thirties, Valerie (Tessa Klein); she has moved to this isolated area from Dublin because of something that happened to her there. As the booze flows freely, and the wind outside howls, the talk turns to local folklore and supernatural events and fairies, each of the men except Brendan telling Valerie, whom they wish to impress, a chillingly haunting yet emotionally touching and sometimes funny tale, only for Valerie’s own story—about the death of her little girl and an experience she had some time afterward when she believed she had received a phone call from the child to come and pick her up from her Nana’s—to be the most moving of them all. Toward the end, Jack offers the true tale of a major romantic misstep from his early life, reinforcing the play’s theme of the need for people to connect and of lost opportunities, but it also hints at hope for Valerie’s future, and maybe Brenden’s as well.  

Outside the Irish Repertory Theatre on W. 22nd Street.

            There is little plotting per se, as the playwright is interested mainly in storytelling, and the believably Irish accented actors who get to tell the stories do a masterful job of pulling in both the other characters and the audience; the only extraneous noise you would have heard during the hypnotic narratives the night I saw the play was my own coughing, the result of a chest cold that had me wishing I had a weir to dam up my own phlegm. I suspect that audiences seeing this fine work, the best I’ve seen at the Irish Rep since I began going regularly a year ago, will be haunted by it.