Wednesday, January 11, 2012

THE SEAFARER • West End Players Guild

This 2006 play from Irish playwright, Conor McPherson, is currently onstage presented by the West End Players Guild, and if you're into Irish plays, this one's for you.  This show also shares the same name of an old English poem that deals with the hardships of life, God, the devil and the afterlife.  Cool, right?!

Sharky (Matt Hanify) is returning to his coastal hometown near Dublin after being let go from his chauffeuring job.  Good thing too, cause his older brother Richard (Robert Ashton) needs some looking after -- another reason Sharky is heading home.  Richard is blind, after hitting his head in a spill into a dumpster.  Richard is also cantankerous and likes his drink, which sucks for Sharky because he's trying to give up the bottle. On Christmas Eve, no less.  Richard has invited a couple of blokes over for a little poker -- Ivan (Charles Heuvelman), who's practically a constant houseguest, avoiding his own home life, and Nicky (John Reidy), who is dating Sharky's ex (awkward).  Nicky shows up with a bottle of booze, and a mysterious Mr. Lockhart (Barry Hyatt).  Sharky has some dark secrets from his past, and during a few moments alone between the two of them, it appears that this Lockhart guy seems to know everything about them.  Turns out, the devil spends his time on Christmas Eve collecting overdue souls, and Lockhart is intent on collecting Sharky's.  Really interesting premise -- a bunch of moonshine soaked Irish guys getting together for some Pre-Christmas cheer, and the Prince of Darkness shows up in a snazzy suit trying to get Sharky to "come through the old hole in the wall" with him.  Spooky…

Barry Hyatt (Mr. Lockhart), Robert Ashton (Richard),
Charles Heuvelman (Ivan), John Reidy (Nicky)
and Matt Hanify (Sharky).  Photo credit: John Lamb
But there are some things about this production that take away from the intriguing set-up.  The night I saw it, some of the pacing seemed very slow.  There were a few very pregnant pauses that took away from the impact quite a bit.  It's hard to stay engaged when there are some tentative line deliveries.  The dialects were also a little uneven.  When you've got a couple of guys nailing the dialect, and others…  well… not, it stands out like a sore thumb.  But hey, every night of theatre is different.  That's what makes it so neat.  Robert Ashton was a standout -- funny and bitingly credible as the crabby, and perhaps a little smelly Richard, along with Matt Hanify as the put-upon Sharky.  John Reidy also added a lot to the show as the good-natured Nicky.  Charles Heuvelman's Ivan has some secrets of his own, also drawing the attention of Mr. Lockhart.  Barry Hyatt as the menacing Prince of Darkness was often engrossing, although sometimes I thought he was from Brooklyn, not Ireland.  However, his description of Hell was chilling.  The set by Mark Wilson, lighting by Renee Sevier-Monsey, and sound by Steve Callahan were wonderful, and I love a cozy little theatre space.  That intimacy added a lot to the play's portents.  It is a show that mixes the naturalistic with a touch of the supernatural, and it's playing until the 15th.


Written by Conor McPherson
Directed by Steve Callahan
Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd.
through January 15 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

Matt Hanify (Sharky), Robert Ashton (Richard), Charles Heuvelman (Ivan), John Reidy (Nicky) and Barry Hyatt (Mr. Lockhart).

Scenic design by Mark Wilson; costume design by Colleen Heneghan; lighting design by Renee Sevier-Monsey; stage manager, Bob Nickles.

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