Directed by Matt Miller
Produced by Seanachai Theatre Company
Exceptional storytelling propels McPherson’s The Weir
Seanachai (Shawn-uh-kee: Gaelic for storyteller) Theatre Company loves to tell Irish ghost stories and Conor McPherson’s The Weir is a fine example of that art form. Director Matt Miller has assembles a terrific group of actors deftly sporting rich Irish brogues (dialect coaching by Barbara Zahora). Utilizing a expert Irish pub set (design by Robert Groth and Jennifer J. Thusing), we meet a fifty something single auto mechanic show owner, Jack (Brad Armacost), whose thirst knows no boundaries. He helps himself to a pint while the thirty something single pun owner, Brendan (Brad Smith) cleans the rural pub.
In rural Ireland, circa 1997, the pub was the main social institution. Patrons come to quench their thirsts and socialize. Jim (Jeff Christian), Jack’s handyman drinks a ‘short one’ while joining Jack and Brendan with the latest area gossip that tells about their mutual friend Finbar (Kevin Theis) who is escorting a woman from Dublin around the area.
We get a glimpse into the lonely characters’ lives whose need to be heard and connect with one another is fueled by the drink. When Finbar brings Valerie to the pub, she becomes the center of attention. At Finbar’s instigation, Jack starts telling a ghost story from 1911. This is the first of several wonderfully scary Irish ghost stories deftly told first by the engagingly skillful talents from Brad Armacost–who is Chicago leading Irish actor.
The mood gets eerie as the local struggle to impress the enigmatic Dublin woman. The drinks keep pouring throughout. The stories continue as Jack tells about when he dug a grave for a child molester. Finbar gets into the ghost story spinning with a story of how and why he quit smoking. The reference to the supernatural abound in these stories. The drinks keep coming.
When Valerie tells her heart wrenching story about seeing her dead child, the mood become sadly sympathetic toward Valeria. These stories intoxicate us with their compact and chilling detail told so passionately by the fine cast. Both haunting and funny, the eerie play demonstrates the transcendent quality of rural communities. It emphasizes our basic need for acceptance. The stores bind these folks forever.
With Valerie’s horrible story, the empathy of the four villagers becomes a binding element that gives this strong work its humanity and heart. What comes across so well in McPherson’s great writing is the genuine warmth exuded from the five actors. This play will make you feel good to be a part of human race as you share the basic goodness of people. We feel their pain, their loneliness and their desire for acceptance while they poke fun at each other as only the Irish do.
This is a movingly powerful drama that is a tribute to the depth of the human spirit. Seanchai Theatre Company’s production if filled with terrific performances led by the brilliant work from Brad Armacost. This is marvelous Irish storytelling.
At The Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox, Chicago, IL