By Holli Harms
Irish Repertory’s Theatre@Home Winter Festival has brought Conor McPherson’s beautifully haunting song of life, The Weir, to their online virtual productions for all of us to watch and listen to and savor. It’s a mirror held up to the mouth of the lives of those in small towns and hamlets, unimportant to the outside, but to those on the inside, necessary in the daily hum of the world.
From the rise of the “curtain” begins the rambling of much-needed talk, talk for talk’s sake acknowledging existence between those who have known each other their whole lives. It is talk about nothing. The gossip about this and that, and them and theirs we find out is the basis of everything that is life.
They meet at the local pub to sit and tell lies and stories and jokes and jab one another and drink. The first to arrive is Jack (Dan Butler) and as he is alone the barkeep and owner Brendan (Tim Ruddy) not about, well Jack pours himself a nice Guinness. This establishment a second home to him and the other patrons. With Brendan’s arrival, the talk flows. The banter between him and Jack fast and short. The finishing of a sentence is not necessary after all these years. Soon Jim (John Keating ) arrives and more drinking and chatter about this one, and, “What do ya know?” about that one. But there is a movement to the town. Today there is a shift. A new person has taken up residence. They’ve all heard about her, the young woman, Valerie (Amanda Quaid) who is getting the first-class tour of the town and land from Finbar (Sean Gormley) the local man about town who has done well for himself. Finbar has a wife but clearly needs the attention, needs to feel like a “big” man to the young and pretty newcomer. They, Brendan, Jim, and Jack know that the final stop on the “Finbar” tour will be Brendan’s pub. They continue the talk – fast, shorthand as they await the arrival.
With great anticipation, recognizing the sound of his car on the road, Finbar arrives. Dapper, the same “older” age as the rest, but clearly a man of the city and culture. He is so proud of himself and his young mentee. After all has he not been a mentor to her this day as he shows her the world of his town.
To all Valerie is young and fresh-faced and buoyantly new. She is a light in the dark. The kind of creature that inspires art. And these men carry the art of story in their bodies. Her appearance is the shift in the night. She is the weir, the low riding damn that slows the flow of water. No more rushing and cascading of words. The talk has lost its quick and short back and forth. Stories of apparitions and other strange encounters take over. Stories with depth and longing and loss. A night of melancholy remembrances. McPherson’s writing is as beautiful as a sunset, as gentle as snow falling, like the stars in the sky, pinpricks of blinding light in a field of black.
There is more to this evening than just stories. What these men do not know is that Valerie carries in her body a wound. A deep wound. There is a dark shade on the lamp of her being.
The actors are stunning in their betrayals, beautifully drawn painful men wandering in the confusions of life that through McPherson’s words, steal from the heart and mind and shine daylight in rooms we would normally pass by. Everyone will break your heart, and touch your soul.
Writer Conor McPherson and director Ciarán O’Reilly are a match made in the heavens. And their cast – constellations they conjured.
The Weir Written by Conor McPherson Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly
Creative Team: Video Editor Sarah Nichols, Sound Designer M. Florian Staab, Assistant Director Jeff Davolt, Production Assistant Simon Geaney
With: Dan Butler, Sean Gormley, John Keating, Amanda Quaid, and Tim Ruddy
January 27, February 6*, 9, and 19*, 2021
Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes, no intermission.