Jack just picked a winner at the track. He and Jim meet up at Brendan’s pub on a desolate, Irish country road. Life’s a mite bleary for these lonely blokes. But as a westerly howls outside, a few pints, smokes, and “smalls” (liberal shots of Jameson) should warm the cockles of their hearts, for a spell at least.
Enter the worst possible patron and maybe the best. Finbar grew up with Jack and Jim. But he left the village and made a success in real estate. And won’t let them forget it. He’s also the only married man of the quartet. So what’s he doing with this Valerie? Just driving the shy Irish lass around? Showing her the empty — some say haunted — house up the road?
Or — no, c’mon: he wouldn’t be introducing her to the area’s only eligible bachelors? He hasn’t got that kind of heart!
At first, it’s as if Valerie enters an exclusive Men’s Club. Jack, Jim, and Brendan are used to talking about women, not with one. As amber fluids flow, they find common ground in ghost stories.
And what a swift way to break down barriers! Playwright Conor McPherson knows that crossing from fact to fantasy can be a psychological, as well as a social, act. It opens people up — the spookier the better. By the end of his 95-minute piece, Valerie tells a true life story that’s just as haunting, if not more.
The Weir is a quiet, fly-on-the-wall — or on the dartboard — play. People just talk in a bar. But when they leave, they’ve changed.
New Village Arts production takes time to find its feet, and has some rhythmic sags. These usually occur when the cast is in between stories. They change seats for the next set up. Then the lights dim too quickly. And we’re clearly in Monologue Mode. These mechanical movements detract from the free-lance, let’s-have-another, atmosphere of the pub.
Two strong performances keep the show lively, though. Ron Choularton’s garrulous Jack nicely wavers from the life of the party to deep fissures in his soul. The program quotes from W.B. Yeats’ “The Stolen Child”: “For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” Choularton suggests that quality in Jack.
Tom Stephenson brings much needed energy as Finbar. A lesser actor would make the Man Who Made It just a jerk. Stephenson deftly suggests that, surface evidence to the contrary, the chipper Finbar might be an okay guy.
Max Macke, Tom Deak, and Samantha Ginn (though her important monologue verges at times on monotone) make useful contributions.
Kelly Kissinger’s set (with Bill Bradbury’s winds whipping up outside) is a highlight. It’s an Irish pub — deep browns and chalky beiges; bottles of Guinness, appropriate memorabilia, ancient gray fireplace, even a tap on the blink. As in actual Irish pubs, it’s at once cozy and roomy. And, like The Weir, it’s got red-cheeked warmth, and a chill at the edges.