Mrs. T and I flew to Chicago on Saturday to see the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, a play about which I wrote with the highest possible enthusiasm when it was first seen on Broadway a year ago:
Conor McPherson has given us a Christmas show for the suicidally depressed. “The Seafarer” is one of those capital-I Irish plays whose characters, one of whom (Ciarán Hinds) turns out to be the Divvil Himself, get falling-down drunk, hint broadly that there’s more to life than death and spout four- and seven-letter words starting with “f” in rich, peaty brogues. It is also–no fooling–worthy of comparison with the finest work of the young Brian Friel.
Strong words, I know, but the 36-year-old Mr. McPherson has earned them. Like Mr. Letts, he’s written a midnight-black comedy, one that wrenches laughter out of the despair of frustrated men whose lives have come to naught. That it takes place in the hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning serves only to deepen the hue of the colors in which their suffering is painted: “You absolutely stink again, do you know that?” “Yeah, happy Christmas to you as well!” Yet in the midst of this world of hurt, Mr. McPherson dares to point to the possibility of hope, even transcendence, and it is this daring that gives his play the stuff of greatness….
The next morning we departed for Smalltown, U.S.A., by way of St. Louis, where we stopped off at the St. Louis Art Museum to see Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976, a remarkable exhibition that Mrs. T missed when it was on display earlier this year at New York’s Jewish Museum. (It’ll be up in St. Louis through January 11.) To go from The Seafarer to Jackson Pollock to Smalltown in a mere twenty-four hours is quite a trip, culturally speaking, but we’re at least as happy here as we were at our previous stops. My family is a close one, and I only got home twice in the year almost past, not nearly often enough to please my mother–or myself, for that matter.
Don’t expect to hear much from these parts in the course of the coming week–Mrs. T and I still have a bit of Christmas shopping left to do–but rest assured that all is well down here in the southeast corner of Missouri, where the new millennium looks surprisingly like the old one and everybody I know is glad to see everyone else.