By William Wolf

THE WEIR (2015)  Send This Review to a Friend

Some shows are even better another time around. As much as I liked the 2013 production by the Irish Repertory Theatre of Conor McPherson’s “The Weir” (See Search for my review), this new revival seems an improvement that has left me further in awe. Two of the five cast members are excellently the same, and the three newcomers perform with distinction. Once again the direction is by Ciarán O’Reilly and his staging is impressively smooth and effective.

Visible from the outset is Charlie Corcoran’s set—a country pub in Ireland in 1997. It is so realistic that someone in the audience might feel like climbing onto stage and ordering a pint or two. There is the sound of a steady wind outside. What occurs in that pub in 95 minutes without intermission becomes a revelation about the lives under inspection. There is much overt humor but also underlying sadness that becomes clear late in the drama.

On this occasion the most striking role of the aging Jack is played by Paul O’Brien, and his performance is a marvel. Jack is a larger than life character full of good cheer, a gift for colorful conversation and a man who can hold his beer. It is all the more poignant when after pontificating about the freedom of being unmarried, he tells a story of the woman he once loved without seizing the opportunity for a permanent relationship and the regret is painful. O’Brien’s entire performance is an impeccably stunning acting turn to be enthusiastically admired.

Another new casting is Tim Ruddy as Brendan, the proprietor and barman, who keeps the drinks flowing and is a low-key observer of what occurs. He is a bachelor without apparent interest in changing his life, even though he seems like a nice eligible fellow.

Back from the former staging is Sean Gormley, again excellent as the financially successful Finbar, who owns much of the area and is married. Before he arrives at the pub, there is much gossip about his showing around a woman who recently moved to the locale from Dublin and expected to bring her to the pub. The chat is funny, with one of the pub regulars, Jim, once again played by John Keating, arriving and adding his persona to the mix.

After the build-up, Finbar makes his entrance and he is fast-talking and exudes bravado stemming from his success. He adds spark to the scene, and the woman he escorts to the pub, Valerie, newly played by Amanda Quaid, is initially reserved as she listens to the patter after she shockingly asks for a glass of white wine, much to the amusement of the beer drinkers.

What ensues is the spinning of tales about former strange happenings in the area, ghostlike stories that cast their spell from the telling and keep one another enthralled. Valerie listens attentively, and then says she has a story that she’d like to tell because of the effect the experience has had on her life. The past episode that she recounts is a shock to those in the pub as well as to the audience, and it dramatically changes the tone of the play.

By the time the lights are turned off, and all have wandered on their way, we are left with indelible portraits, thanks to the masterly writing and the superb acting and directing to match. At the temporary location for the Irish Repertory Theatre (its West 22nd Street home is undergoing renovations), 103 East 15th Street. Reviewed July 10, 2015.


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