THEATER REVIEW: Impact of ‘Weir’ at Playhouse is a net positive

“The Weir” / Ghent Playhouse

WHAT IS A “WEIR” ANYWAY? It ought to be a dark, diaphanous Irish fairy with trickster behaviors and a ton of moral ambiguity; but it isn’t. It’s a dam over a stream—or a net spread across a stream to catch fish.

And it’s also a warm brown pub with sponged walls, copious rough wood, and 1980s light fixtures hanging over the bar. It’s a good set at the Ghent Playhouse, down to its upholstered chair, an item that could be at home in a Brooklyn brownstone. It proves that this pub has no intention of getting too tourist-folksy. Robert Walker and Sam Reilly designed it.

The five fish in this weir are definitely dammed up. They drink a lot. As everyone knows, drink often lubricates human connections, which, on this particular evening, are delivered in four monologues. Three of them with a ghostly twist.

All the monologues ask the question, “How could this possibly happen?” The fourth story by Valerie (played by Monica Brady) asks the ultimate how-could-this-possibly-happen question: How can one’s child die?

Each long monologue leaves other actors in extended listening mode. This structure may threaten audience credulity, as drinkers are seldom so attentive to one another for long periods of time.

Actor Neal Berntson as Jim uses his silent time in an especially interesting way. He checks out for extended periods in favor of private, brooding thoughts. When he comes to life to respond to his fellows, his gratitude to them for connection is all the more pungent.

On opening night, Brady seemed emotionally engaged but physically uncomfortable. Her perpetually wrinkled brow became a tic impossible to ignore. It unnecessarily sabotaged her pretty face and drew attention away from the character.

John Wallace as Finbar is solid. Of these characters his is the most at home in his skin, the fish best adjusted to the net. Wallace the actor is also solid, skilled, and believable.

Jerry Greene is loose and attractive as the unmonologued bartender.

Donald Dolan as the expansive, talky barroom major-domo is utterly engaging and complex in spite of some opening-night snags with his character’s profusion of lines.

The “fuckin’” frequency in this script seems more likely to be a surrender to playwright-trendiness—’60s to ’80s trendiness—than any creative contribution to the play or bow to realism.

Irish accents came in and out, and I, for one, was grateful that the actors did not try too hard for them. Thank you director, Aaron Holbritter.

Overall, the performance on opening night had not yet quite jelled, but it promised to do so.

“The Weir” plays through February 7. Buy tickets online or by phone at 800-838-3006.

 

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