A MOVING PRODUCTION OF CONON McPHERSON’S “THE WEIR”.
A Moving Production of Conor McPherson’s “The Weir
Ghost, both alive and dead, are haunting the stage at the Phoenix Theatre in Conor McPherson’s “The Weir” thanks to some splendid acting of the five member cast and excellent direction of Richard Harder in Off Broadway West of the classic Irish play. This is a first rate revival of “The Weir
I first saw this captivating and lyrical play at the Royal Court in London in 1997. Later I saw the American premiere in 1999 at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York and then the Aurora Theatre in 2003. Since I am one half Irish I have always found Conor McPherson’s work expressive. This is one of his best. You would think that since this is the playwright’s most unassuming work, just four blokes and a woman telling ghost stories in a lonely pub deep in the Irish countryside, he makes this an interesting piece of theatre.
The Weir starts with a prelude with Robin Hale singing beautifully an Irish ballad called “The Parting Glass”. The 1 hour and 50 no intermission drama starts off during a wind and stormy night as the regulars begin to assemble at Brendan’s pub in a small village. Jack (Keith Burkland) first arrives even before the owner Brendan (Adam Simpson) comes down from his bachelor quarters upstairs. Jack (Brian O’Connor) is soon followed by Jim, an odd-job man about the village. These guys banter about the weather, horse racing and of course women.
There is talk about their friend Finbar who used to be a regular at the bar. He has moved up in the world and just doesn’t see his old mates as regular. However Finbar (Shane Fahy) does drop into the bar that night. He brings with him a woman from Dublin Valerie (Jocelyn Stringer) who is renting a house from him. There is gracious chat, a study of photos on the wall and talk about all of Germans who are on vacation in nearby towns.
The men decided to spins some tales about Irish fairies. As each yarn grows these become increasingly shadowy including some ethereal knocking at the doors and windows of the house that Valerie is renting. However at the end Valerie has the most gripping tale to tell, an emotional account of sorrow and enigmatic that explains her presence in this secluded part of Ireland.
Director Richard Harder has assembled a fine cast who turn the pub into a traumatic night of self-revelation and unearthing. He directs a pitch-perfect production that does full justice to his marvelous drama.
Keith Burkland is outstanding as Jack, the testy old curmudgeon who divulges his own isolation and unexpected sensitivity. Brian O’Connor delivers a fine turn as the painfully reluctant Jim. Adam Simpson as the affable barman Brannon creates an indelible character just by listening and debating with himself on if he should join the others in a “small one” . Shane Fahy as the ostentatious Finbar gives a convincing swell, trying to be a big shot with his role of 20 pound notes.
Jocelyn Stringer gives a deeply moving performance as the woman who escaped from Dublin to rural Ireland with a terrible story to tell.
Set designer Bert van Aalsburg has devised an excellent detail set of an Irish pub right to packets of eatables directly from Ireland hanging up back of the bar.
“The Weir” runs through December 7th at The Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason Street, Sixth Floor, San Francisco (between Geary and Post) For tickets call 1-800-838-3006 or on line at www.offbroadwaywest.org