This is a review of a play that I wrote for a class called Experiencing The Live Theatre I

The Weir         

A “weir” is a dam built across a river to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow. In this way Ann Bagley’s character, Valerie, is used by playwright Conor McPherson in his play of the same name as a device to somehow change the flow, or routine, of an ordinary night at a bar for a couple of regulars and the bar’s owner, Brendan. There is no doubt tonight is a special night, as Jim and Jack, the two regulars, are to be joined by old friend Finbar, a proverbial  “local kid made good” who is in from Dublin to show their tiny, remote western Ireland town of Leitrim to Valerie. The men are excited about seeing Finbar again, and they joke about why someone would want to showcase their neighborhood, which has little if any tourist appeal. Anticipation is in the air, and magic is what these five people are supposed to create through the sparks of their different personalities as the night goes on. However, as the play progressed, its showpiece ending greatly disappointed and left this audience member with a bit of a bad taste in his mouth.

Valerie is quite the looker, and in time the men try to impress her by telling supernatural ghost stories, without realizing that she also has her own story to tell. The chemistry between the actors was great, and therefore my interest was piqued throughout. For the most part, with the exception of Finbar, their accents were thick enough to sound genuine yet still understandable, and with their quintessentially Irish manner of expression they plunge into their stories, undeniably the play’s strength, with aplomb. First one out of the gate with his story was Jack, who was played by a replacement actor, John Dolan. The man who regularly plays the part fell ill on the day of the performance, and Mr. Dolan had the decency and ambition to drive through snow and treacherous weather for hours, as he came from Stratford. Although I never quite got used to the actor reading his lines off a book, his performance was great and deserves all the credit possible. He was letter-perfect in his intonation of Jack’s funniest lines, as his character is the old eccentric smart aleck, and  his comic timing was impeccable considering he didn’t know the lines by heart. The next story was related by Finbar, as played by John Jarvis, and his performance was the most spirited. Jarvis truly gives one the sense that Finbar at heart is still the country boy even though he is now a big city businessman, and hearing him swear as often as he does, as if he’d never been educated, was quite funny.

Jim’s story, as told by Robert Persichini, stole the show. Jim’s lack of an accent renders him virtually unnoticeable before he begins to spin his yarn, one that becomes as disturbing as its subject matter, pedophilia. Jim tells it with a passion that truly grabs the viewer by the throat and never lets it go. The only problem with the story is that it precedes Valerie’s, thus raising the stakes and anticipation for the audience, who were handed out a program before the show describing Valerie’s tale as “so beautiful and haunting that it is destined to change their lives forever.” I greatly disagree with that verdict because Valerie’s saga is nothing but predictable, for it concerned a death within her family and the consequently horrific impact it would have on her. The story is told with such little emotion as to almost put me to sleep, and it dragged on long after it stopped being interesting. 

This was a recurrent problem for the production, as Mr. McPherson had seemingly no idea when to stop with one story and start with the next. With the exception of Valerie’s all stories were entertaining but their endings were needlessly prolonged. Another flaw was the obvious lighting, as the lights would go down to tell everyone that the narratives were starting and were supposed to be scary and affecting. These aspects of the production seemed simplistic, as if Mr. McPherson and the director, Jackie Maxwell, expected us to be impressed solely by the loose atmosphere, chemistry and comic Irish attributes of the play. These indeed made the production in the very least interesting, but the appeal of the stories previous to Valerie’s, especially Jim’s, prepared the audience for a powerful ending which never came, in much the same way we were all expecting a more affecting play.


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