4626 N. Knox, Chicago
Written by Conor McPherson
Directed by Matt Miller
Thru October 17th
Running Time: 95 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Your man and his eejit seanachais cod with a blow-in for a bit of craic over a small one and a fag or two. Irish to English Translation: a group of storytelling friends share tales with a newcomer for a bit of fun over shots of Jameson and cigarettes. Seanachi Theatre Company presents THE WEIR by award-winning playwright Conor McPherson. Set in 1997, THE WEIR takes place entirely in a rural pub in Ireland. ‘The weir’ is the river used to generate power for the village. The play’s setting is the watering hole that has been the influential source of community for generations of townsfolk. To entertain a young woman visiting from Dublin, the pub regulars spin yarns of unexplained knockings and apparitions. Drinking white wine in a male and whiskey dominated bar isn’t the only oddity about the city gal. Revealing her own recent brush with the supernatural, she easily surpasses the local fairy and ghost folklore with a shiver-inducing story. THE WEIR is being ‘a-blow-in-on-the-wall’ to the hilarious drinking rituals of a small Irish town. The experience will leave you yearning for a trip to Ireland, a pint of Guinness, and the strong friendships to share both with.
Under the direction of Matt Miller and dialect coaching of Barbara Zahora, THE WEIR ensemble is authentic in pub talk, walk and gawk. To impress the feminine stranger, the conversations between Brad Armacost (Jack) and Kevin Theis (Finnbar) is a healthy pour of boast with a shot of swagger. Armacost is outstanding as the charismatic Irish drunk that hold courts with his nightly tavern rehashing of the past. Theis is hilarious as he competes with Jack’s overshadowing presence. By bragging, he continually sets himself up as the arse of Jack’s joke. Meanwhile, the gawkers, Brad Smith (Brendan) and Jeff Christian (Jim) are delightful as the awkwardly entranced barflies with the lady company. Smith’s bashful bartender, debating over joining in a libation, is understated charming. Christian is a perfect social misfit that bumbles into the limelight with a graveyard remembrance. The chemistry between the guys is like good Irish whiskey. It goes down smooth with a bit of a bite and lingering giddy affects. Holding her own with the tavern buddies, Sarah Wellington (Valerie) is equal parts frivolous and poignant. She flirts with tease expertise and then halts the playful banter with a haunting narrative.
The set, designed by Robert Groth and Jenniffer Thusing, is a picture-perfect illustration of the inside of a village pub in Ireland. Attached to a home, it’s simplistic and inviting. It has a fireplace, cozy chairs, and bar stools. The walls are covered with framed photographs and beer signs. The welcoming ambiance immediately beckons the theatre goer to pull a seat closer to the fire for a chat. All together gorgeous! Hailing from the Walsh clan with a family motto of ‘transfixed but not dead’, I loved this play about drinkable and audible spirits. THE WEIR is like good Irish music. Whether it’s being crass or maudlin, it provokes laughter and tears. And it’s always grand!
With strong Irish roots, Maureen describes the show with “brings me back to County Clare.”
“The Weir” production photography courtesy of Eileen Molony.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
The Irish American Heritage Center is northwest of the city at Wilson and Knox. It is the weir of the Chicago Irish community. Besides the show, the halls were festive with a 50th birthday celebration and a fundraiser in memory of Kevin Dennis. Hundreds of Irish-folk were drinking and dancing. General merriment was in abundance. In addition, the building houses the Fifth Province Pub on the main floor. Not quite the Groth-Thusing scene, it’s still a lively atmosphere with friendly bartenders. It’s a perfect place for ‘a small one’ post play. Unfortunately, there aren’t any colorful regulars spinning yarns to charm the ladies. So, these blow-ins head home!
Filed under: Seanachai Theatre Company
Tags: Barbara Zahora, Brad Smith, Bradley Armacost, Conor McPherson, Irish American Heritage Center, Jeff Christian, Jenniffer Thusing, Katy Walsh, Kevin Theis, Matt Miller, Robert Groth, Sarah Wellington, Seanachai Theatre Company, The Fifth Province Pub, The Weir