Fine Ensemble Acting in The Weir at Off Broadway West

Fine Ensemble Acting in The Weir at Off Broadway West

Off Broadway West presents The Weir at the Phoenix Theatre in San Francisco

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

Off Broadway West opened The Weir Friday, November 8, 2013. The Weir is by Conor McPherson an award winning Irish playwright and is directed by Richard D. Harder, Artistic Director of Off Broadway West.

The play opens in a rural Irish pub with Brendan (Adam Simpson), the owner of the pub and Jack (Keith Burkland), a car mechanic and garage owner.  These two begin to discuss their respective days and are soon joined by Jim (Brian O’Connor), Jack’s assistant.  The three discuss Valerie (Jocelyn Stringer), a pretty young woman from Dublin who has just rented an old home in the area.

Finbar (Shane Fahy), a businessman, arrives with Valerie and the play revolves around reminiscing and the kind of banter that only comes about among men who have a shared upbringing.  After a few drinks, the group begins telling ghost stories with a supernatural slant related to their own experiences and those of others in the area.  After each man (with the exception of Brendan), has told a story, Valerie tells her own; the reason why she left Dublin.  Valerie’s story is melancholy with a ghostly twist echoing the earlier tales and shocks the men who become softer and kinder.

Finbar and Jim leave and in the last part of the play, Jack’s final monologue is a story of personal loss which, he comments, is at heart, not a ghostly tale, but in some ways is none the less about a haunting.

This play is typically Irish, both sad and sweet and is as much about lack of close relationships and missed connections as it is about anything else. The Weir of the title is a hydroelectric dam on a nearby waterway that is mentioned only in passing as Finbar describes the local attractions to Valerie.  It anticipates and symbolizes the flow of the stories into and around each other.

All of the actors in this wonderful cast bring a new refreshingly, solid meaning to the phrase “ensemble” acting.  Richard Harder’s direction is precise and effective. Bert van Aalsburg creatively designs the set, a small pub in rural Ireland.  Head to Off Broadway West’s The Weir for a night of Guinness beer, old friends and ghost stories, a perfect way to spend a cold autumn night.

The Weir runs November 8-December 7, 2013, Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. (closed 11/28 for Thanksgiving), Off Broadway West Theatre Company is located at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason Street, Suite 601, San Francisco (between Geary and Post).  For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or go online at www.offbroadwaywest.org.

Off Broadway West is an award winning, nonprofit, San Francisco Theatre Company in its 7th season continuing its mission to provide the Bay Area theatre community with plays that engage and challenge without forgetting to entertain.

Coming up next at Off Broadway West will be The Marriage by George Bernard Shaw, June 20-July 19, 2014 at the Phoenix Theatre.

Flora Lynn Isaacson