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Paulanne Simmons

Ghosts Take Over at the Irish Rep!

THE WEIR -- Dan Butler as Jack at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The Weir
Directed by Ciarán O'Reilly
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22 Street
Opened May 23, 2013
Wed. at 3pm & 8pm, Thurs. at 7pm, Fri. at 8pm, Sat. at 3pm & 8pm, Sun. at 3pm. Additional performance July 4 at 7pm
Tickets: $55 & $65 (212) 727-2737 or www.irishrep.org
Closes July 7, 2012
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons May May 29, 2013

Like many plays by Irish writers, Conor McPherson's "The Weir" takes place in a pub. The one Charlie Corcoran has created for The Irish Repertory Theatre's current production certainly does much to reinforce the feeling of ghostly isolation the play evokes. Into this empty bar walks Jack who pours himself a glass of beer (the tap does not work) and makes himself at home. Only the howling wind indicates the weirdness that will follow.

Ciarán O'Reilly directs a cast of four: Dan Butler (Jack,), Billy Carter (Brenden) John Keating (Jim) Sean Gormley (Finbar) and Tessa Klein (Valerie). Jack, a car mechanic; Brenden, who owns the pub; and Jim, Jack's assistant, are locals who have remained at home, taking care of relatives and living a life probably not much different from that of their parents. Finbar has moved to the city and become rich. He has come to the pub with Valerie, who has has just rented his place in the village, to show her some local color.

Jack, Finbar and Jim, mostly to impress Valerie, tell increasingly bizarre stories involving the strange appearances of ghosts. But at the point when they each realize they may have gone too far and frightened this woman all by herself in a place she doesn't know, Valerie comes out with her own horrific story, a story of such pain and loss the others don't know exactly how to comfort her.

Despite this somber subject matter, much of "The Weir" is quite funny. The men are constantly ribbing each other and pointing out each other's foibles. Jack has a particularly wry sense of humor, well exploited by Butler, that accompanies piercing observation.

But it is Valerie's s story, told by Klein with a haunting restraint, that is the emotional heart of the story. It explains why she has left Dublin and retreated to the country, and it also provokes Jack's confession about the failures in his own life.

Although the show is called "The Weir," after a hydroelectric dam on a nearby waterway, the weir is only mentioned in passing. The play is really about friendship, love and the pain called by the lack of both. It's about lost opportunity and human failure. But it is also about the compassion that can sometimes allow us to survive our worst mistakes.

When it comes to telling a story, no one does it better than the Irish. And when it comes to understanding Irish stories, no one does it better than the Irish Rep.



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