In the online edition of today’s Wall Street Journal, I review an off-Broadway revival of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer. Here’s an excerpt.
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Now that Brian Friel is gone, who is Ireland’s foremost playwright? Martin McDonagh has been getting most of the ink of late, but the Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival of “The Seafarer” reminds us that Conor McPherson also has a strong claim to that title. Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly, this production is equal in quality to the 2007 New York premiere, staged by the author himself, and the 2008 Chicago premiere by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, in which the late, lamented John Mahoney gave the performance of a lifetime. “The Seafarer” seems to bring out the best in those who do it, and when it comes to the Irish Rep, one of America’s finest theater troupes, that’s saying something.
“The Seafarer” is—or at least appears to be—the simplest and most straightforward of kitchen-sink conversation pieces. It unfolds in the seedy living room of Sharky (Andy Murray), an out-of-work chauffeur who has come home to Dublin to look after Richard (Colin McPhillamy), his newly blinded brother. The time is Christmas Eve, and Sharky is spending the evening with Richard, two of their friends (Michael Mellamphy and Tim Ruddy) and a well-dressed stranger (Matthew Broderick). Sharky, Richard and their friends are hard-drinking, middle-aged Irishmen whom life has treated roughly and who all look very much the worse for it. Not so Mr. Lockhart, the mysterious odd man out, who has come to Dublin to see Sharky, from whom he means to…well, collect a debt.
This being an Irish play, you can probably guess without too much difficulty what the debt is and who has come to collect it, and it is the highest of tributes to Mr. McPherson’s professional skill that he still contrives to successfully set off a firecracker of surprise at evening’s end….
This production contains no fancy touches, just an impeccably naturalistic set by Charlie Corcoran (I’ve never seen filthier wallpaper) and five performances that are as deeply rooted in felt life as it’s possible to be….
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Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for The Seafarer: