Off-Broadway Review: “The Seafarer” at Irish Repertory Theatre

Off-Broadway Review: “The Seafarer” at Irish Repertory Theatre (Closed Sunday May 13, 2018)
By Conor McPherson
Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The latest offering of the Irish Repertory Theatre is the revival of “The Seafearer” by Conor McPherson, which opened on Broadway in 2007 and was nominated for a TONY award for best play that season. It follows the renowned style of the playwright, producing incredible natural dialogue, executed in somewhat ordinary life situations, with a collection of disreputable characters, and always providing a mysterious twist to maintain an interesting plot. In this case it is the story that revolves around the Faustian character “Sharky” who won a card game with the devil while in jail for murder, where the stakes were high: his soul or his freedom with the condition that if he won there could be a rematch at any time.

The festivities begin on Christmas Eve morning in the basement hangout of the Harkin brothers, Richard (a perfectly cantankerous Colin McPhillamy) and his younger brother James aka “Sharky” (a completely cogent Andy Murray), who has returned home to help his brother who is now blind as a result of a drunken brawl. Emerging from the decrepit, cluttered surroundings (impeccably designed by Charlie Corcoran) is good friend, neighbor and drinking buddy Ivan Curry (a hysterical and charming Michael Mellamphy), who cannot find his eyeglasses or his right mind amidst the dreck and the hangover from the drinking the night before. After spending the day trying to recover and get prepared for Christmas the next day, it is revealed that Richard has invited Tim Ruddy, (played with a comic Machiavellian flair by Nicky Giblin), an arch rival of his brother to stop by for a visit and a drink for the holiday. When he arrives, he brings with him an unexpected visitor, Mr. Lockhart (a sober and somber Matthew Broderick). This mysterious character that appears is soon disclosed as the devil who is here for the card game rematch that Sharky promised, to claim his soul. So, the plot continues with a card game ensuing surprising twists and turns that would only serve as a spoiler alert if mentioned.

Director Ciaran O’Reilly unravels the plot ever so slowly with precision enabling the actors to fully develop a character and allowing the audience to revel in the rich and often poetic dialogue for which playwright is well known. It is not until Mr. Lockhart arrives, that the pace should begin to accelerate given the evil and sinister reason he appears. It is always a pleasure to see Mr. Broderick take the stage, and it is admirable that he lends his star power to a successful off-Broadway company, but he has not taken full advantage of the menacing and malicious traits that usually accompany this persona. This diminishes the tension and the ability to realize the full potential of the suspenseful script.

Considering all creative factors, including the realistic, yet moody lighting design provided by Brian Nason, the talented cast can forge an enjoyable evening of theater that compliments the young, Irish playwright and gifted storyteller.