Lesley Valdes, WRTI's critic-at-large, fills us in on the Arden's newest play. The Seafarer, written by Conor McPherson and directed by David O'Connor, was a smash hit on Broadway. This production runs from now until June 14th.
Critic at Large, WRTI-FM
May 20 to June 14, 2009
Everyone's lost something in Conor McPherson's The Seafarer. Richard his sight, Ivan his glasses, Sharkey can't hold a job, and these are just the metaphors. Losers, the characters may be, but the actors in the production at the Arden Theater are exceptional. They hold their own, sustain their individuality, their brogues, their particular brands of inebriation. With one exception, though it's a big one, McPherson's descent into the interior of Everyman succeeds.
No question the subject is dismal in the Dublin basement where brothers squabble and risk more than they know on a game of poker with friends. It's Christmas Eve, when few of us ever get things right. Alcoholism is not fun but The Seafarer's black humor plays fast - and furious - and the laughs keep coming. David O'Connor's brilliant direction is a scherzo of jibes and screw-ups. The timing is musical, the momentum terraced as a baroque concerto. Things falls apart. In the silences, nuances pile up.
Younger brother Sharkey (William Zielinski) is pivotal. So are his efforts to abstain: "OK, so you're an alcoholic," brother Richard spits out. "But you're alive!" Sharkey has a slouch and a put-upon demeanor that announces his attempts at valor, and concealment. His loneliness is palpable. The bull Richard is masterfully portrayed by Brian Russell. One of those buffoons who always manages to be ringleader. He rules with digs, self-pity and his blind man's cane. Well-meaning bumblers flock to him: kind shabby Ivan, who couldn't refuse a pint to save himself in a burning building. Played so rightly by Anthony Lawton the pathos is mesmerizing. Joe Hickey as hail fellow with attention deficit Nicky, thorn in Sharkey's side.
Like other McPherson dramas, the supernatural takes part. The devil arrives. He's elegant Lockhart, come for Sharkey's soul. Able Greg Wood plays him but the character, as the device, stretches credulity. The Seafarer is inspired by an eighth-century poem about man's exile. McPherson overloads his play with sympathy for the devils in the basement and the Devil who can take them out. At the Arden, fools trump Fallen Angel.