Given the popularity of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the US, it would seem that many of us claim Irish ancestry or do for that one day anyway. The stereotype of the lyrical storyteller holding forth at the local pub over pints has great romantic appeal. Stereotype or not, the Irish storyteller is having his moment at the H Street Playhouse right now in Scena Theater’s production of Conor McPherson’s The Weir.
The action of this one-act play takes place over the course of one blustery evening in a rural pub run by Brendan (Eric Lucas), a sweet guy looking over his family’s land and apparently a flock of sheep. Regulars Jack (Gordon Fulton) and Jim (Brian McEvoy) arrive and the usual daily banter and gentle insults occur. Their typical evening at the pub is interrupted when Finbar (Brian Mallon) brings newcomer, the lovely Valerie (Kerry Waters) who has recently relocated to the village from Dublin. The gents all take turns at gallantry and sharing information about their small village. The evening takes a dark turn when each of the men shares their true-tales of interactions with ghosts. Tales of fairies, recently deceased perverts and neighbors all chill the listeners but it’s Valerie’s tragic tale of what drove her from Dublin that silences them all.
Director Robert McNamara brings together a top-notch cast of actors, three from Ireland who, of course, give the play an terrific authenticity. Local actors Waters and Lucas totally hold their own and their accents are great; in fact, my date didn’t know they were American. A story-telling play like this, without action or a driving plot, could easily drag but McNamara keeps the pacing going during the snappy dialogue and later gives the individual actors the time to make greater impact with their ghost stories.
The intimate nature of the H Street Playhouse is perfectly suited for a play like this: the audience is easily the sixth member of their crowd eagerly listening for just one more story.
We began our evening at The Queen Vic and mentioned to the Irish bartender Noel where we were headed. He had already seen the play and was quite chummy with the actors from across the pond. He advised us to take advantage of the beverages for sale at the snack bar and bring a Guinness or a Harp into the theatre with us. All the drinking happening onstage had him feeling thirsty out in the audience. We took him up on this advice and I recommend you do the same.
The Weir has been extended to May 1st. You can get your tickets here.