[Note: This review is for The Weir's 2013 production. The Irish Rep is now bringing the play back for an encore engagement at DR2 Theatre, with John Keating and Sean Gormley repeating their roles.]
The title of Conor McPherson’s 1997 masterwork The Weir refers to a small dam, an interruption in the natural flow of a river. And certainly the Irish Repertory Theatre’s offering boasts a palpable liquidity, an accelerating rush of people swept off their feet by loneliness who are nonetheless caught and stilled in a village bar. In Ciarán O’Reilly’s production, we can almost feel the heat emanating from designer Charlie Corcoran’s photo-perfect pub; we actually lean closer to it when the wind howls. But the work moves beyond mere coziness; an excellent cast and McPherson’s profoundly felt humanism make the piece warming on some deep, maybe even soul-deep, level.
Barkeep Brendan (standout Billy Carter) suffers garrulous contrarian Jack (Dan Butler); Jack banters with sweet Jim (the always-tremendous John Keating); they all prod local made-good Finbar (Sean Gormley), whose return jabs can get a little fierce. McPherson’s title also, of course, eddies toward “weird” (this being the playwright of haunted thrillers Shining City and The Seafarer), and so when the men tell stories to Dublin “blow-in” Valerie (Tessa Klein), they turn to what another poet called “things counter, original, spare, strange.” Jack will eventually tell a story about a young man’s mistake—the kind that will set the course for the older man we see before us. “The future was all ahead of me. Years and years of it,” he says. It’s meant to be chilling, but he also accidentally comforts us, just as all the best ghost stories do.—Theater review by Helen Shaw