Old friends, a new woman, and ghostly tales animate The Weir.
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Photo: Drinking It In: Michael Jacobs and John Rousseau belly up to the bar in The Weir.
If there''s anything at which the human brain excels, it seems, it''s the ability to divert its attention from great pain or confusion--the wounds we carry.
In Conor McPherson''s The Weir, now being presented by Pacific Repertory Theater in the Circle Theater, four old friends are finagled into confronting their wounds.
In a rural pub on the coast of County Sligo in Ireland, locals Jack and Jim drop in for a few pints with their buddy, Brendan, the pub-keeper. They banter and gossip between drinks while awaiting the arrival of another old friend, Finbar, and newcomer to town, Valerie. Finbar''s arrival is anticipated with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Finbar, who no longer lives in the area, is a married man, and his escorting a single female through his old haunts is a tad scandalous--and titillating.
When Valerie arrives, the four men commence to do what men do when in the presence of an unattached female--establish dominance. As the men try to top each other and stump their peers, a series of unexplained personal mysteries and ghost stories unfolds. With the bellicose Jack compelling the men to tell their stories, we hear tales that must have been kept quiet for years.
The greatest strength of Dan Gotch''s direction of The Weir is the genuine sense of camaraderie created between the four men in the production. It''s easy to believe that these four guys have shared many a drop and, until the newcomer arrives, their banter has dropped into the almost ritualized patterns that old friends develop. A person almost doesn''t notice disparity in the accents rolling from the tongues of four men from the same town.
First and foremost, this is an ensemble production that relies on the entire cast to be present and engaged in listening as the stories are told. In this regard, The Weir is an excellent bit of chamber theater. But if the show belongs to any one character it''s that of Jack (John Rousseau) who sort of bullies his buddies into following his will. It isn''t until the end of the show that we are shown Jack''s tender underbelly, and Rousseau does an excellent job dropping his character''s bombastic façade to reveal the sensitive man beneath.
As the sort-of-but-not-really philandering Finbar, Tim Hart also gives a standout performance. Finbar has spent the day giving Valerie a tour of the area. Near the end of the play, Hart has a beautifully nuanced moment. As he prepares to leave, he asks if Valerie wants a lift home; she declines and the other men assure him they have the situation covered. Hart manages to be both crestfallen and understanding, letting us see his character''s hopes and fears. It''s very nice in a painful sort of way.
Julie Hughett delivers a warm Valerie, accepting of her new friends, eager to hear their stories and share her own, and maybe, just maybe, find a way to start her life again. Rounding out the cast, both Michael Jacobs as Jim, and Scott Free as Brendan, deliver dependable performances.
John Rousseau doubled as scenic and lighting designer, and succeeded in creating such a warm pub that audiences might be tempted to stick around after the show for a Guinness--knocked back by Jameson''s.
The Weir continues at Carmel''s Circle Theater through July 2.