“This has been a strange little evening for me,” says one of the five characters near the end of The Weir by Conor McPherson. It has been a strange little evening. With colorful, often salty dialogue, four of them have been inspired to recount a first-hand experience with a ghost during a night of spirited conversation and many beers, whiskies, brandies, wine and cigarettes.
Set in 1997, in rural Ireland at The Weir a pub, we meet Brendan, the single owner in his 30’s, Bachelor Jack in his 50’s who is a mechanic and owns a garage, and Jim in his 40’s who is Jack’s assistant and still lives with his mother. There is also Finbar in his 40’s who is a prosperous local businessman. The four men all have know each all of their lives and have a close and bantering relationship. Dublin Valerie who is in her 30’s and who has just come to the town to rent a nearby house visits the pub and becomes part of the gathering.
Mr. McPherson has written a rich and engrossing play that is appealing in it’s well-crafted simplicity. Each of the five commonplace characters is precisely drawn with biographical details expertly imparted throughout. They all speak in an authentic flavorful Irish manner.
The narrative conceit of people reminiscing about past interactions with apparitions is rendered with a matter-of-fact quality and total believability. The beauty of the play is in its depiction of the inner lives and honest exclamations of these small town folk that only gets expressed through their fanciful storytelling.
As the cantankerous Jack, Paul O’Brien is delightfully gruff but has a heartbreaking speech that he delivers masterfully, altering the character considerably. Tim Ruddy is charmingly low-key and completes his tasks as if he really owns a pub. Blustery but conveying great depth, Sean Gormley is dynamic as the town’s wily businessman Finbar. John Keating is marvelously daffy and poignant as the dim garage assistant Jim. Solid and straightforward, Amanda Quaid subtly and powerfully portrays the lone woman of the group. Together these five sterling actors comprise a true ensemble that superbly plays off of each other with total ease and unity.
Besides achieving such strong performances, Ciaran O’Reilly’s direction also brilliantly realizes the physical aspects of the production. The five actors are precisely placed on the small stage yielding many vivid tableaus and images.
Finely detailed with a dartboard, small packages of potato chips attached to rack, beer taps, a small old-fashioned stove, black and white photographs on the walls of the past, a payphone, scratched wooden furniture, green wallpaper, and the weathered wooden bar is scenic designer Charlie Corcoran’s amazingly realistic recreation of the pub. This inspired set is a major factor to this production’s success.
Eerie echoes of wind and shifts from dimness to brightness are accomplished aspects of the moody sound and lighting design of Drew Levy and Michael Gottlieb, respectively. Costume designer Leon Dobkowski has perfectly outfitted every character exactly like one would expect these small-town and big city residents to look like.
This play was first presented at The Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in London and later transferred to The West End where it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play for 1999. The Broadway production opened in 1999 and ran for eight months. The Irish Repertory Theatre’s acclaimed first revival opened in 2013, and this current production of that one has the same director, production team, and some of that cast.
Stylistically The Weir is a haunting but often comical cross between Eugene O’Neil and Harold Pinter. Author Conor McPherson also channels those dramatic masters’ themes of regret and loss in a compelling, moving and unique fashion. The prominent clock on the wall of the pub stays the same time throughout the play.
The Weir (through September 6, 2015)
The Irish Repertory Theatre at the DR2 Theatre
103 East 15th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-727-2737 or visit http://www.irishrep.org
Running time: ninety-five minutes with no intermission