Directed by Ciarán O'Reilly
Reviewed by Sander Gusinow
Theatre Reviews Limited
Conor McPherson’s “The Weir,” a haunting play of effervescent charm, finds a cozy home at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Directed by Irish Rep veteran Ciarán O’Reilly, the play bathes comfortably in old-country charm, fireside folk tales, and sepulchral gloom.
The play centers around one night at a bar in rural Ireland. Excitement stirs in the placid village when Valerie, a young woman from Dublin, moves into town. When she comes to visit the bar, the grizzled regulars and young bartender Brendan, try their best to make her feel at home. As they begin to tell her the old ghost stories from years gone by, Valerie’s cosmopolitan exterior cracks, and she confides in them an intensely personal ghost story all her own.
Director Ciarán O’Reilly shows his mastery over the form, conducting the play so the ghostly folk tales and bar-counter hootenanny flow seamlessly in and out of one another. O’Reilly’s subtle bag of tricks sets an ominous pace, all the while capturing McPherson’s wit at every turn.
The cast is no less masterful in their portrayals of the country barflies, fawning over the attractive newcomer, and regaling her with their macabre tales of mystery. Paul O’Brein and Tim Ruddy’s playful chemistry shines in their portrayals of Jack and Brendan, a cantankerous old barfly and his bartending surrogate son. John Keating gives the jesterliest performance as Jim, the slightly unhinged town handyman, and Sean Gormley is loveably contemptible as the raunchy, boastful Finbar.
Yet the most stunning performance of the evening comes in the form of Amanda Quaid’s Valerie: It’s as if she soaks the tales directly into her skin. When she finally unburdens herself, the out-of-place urbanite proves more scarred and soulful than the rest of the pub combined. She’s a woman exhumed from the grave, closer to the deathly elements of the country than her polite demeanor betrays.
While the actual story of “The Weir” is less compelling than the tales told by its characters, it is a testament to McPherson’s power as a storyteller, and O’Reilly’s skill at arms, that the play entrances anyway. A haunting, captivating comedy buoyed by fine performances and directorial panache, Irish Rep’s “The Weir” rivets with wit, wise-cracking and good old gothic imagination.