Pace. When someone asks me what is the most important thing when it comes to storytelling, I tell him or her without hesitation that it is pacing. Not the story, since a skilled director can improve that. Not the characters, as the plot can make up for the lack of interesting personalities. Not the setting, as sometimes the dialogue can make the period of the story feel more authentic than the setting itself. It’s the pace! If the pace is not working with the story, the story becomes a lot less interesting and the audience starts trailing off. To lose your spectator’s interest is any producer’s nightmare. Good for The Irish Repertory Theatre’s team that is not the case here. In fact, it is the slow moving pace combined with the familiarity the characters infused to the setting that makes their production of Conor McPherson’s “The Weir” a can’t miss production.
Set in a rural pub in Ireland, the play explores the loneliness in which these characters live thanks to missed opportunities and the effects they had on their experiences. As four friends gather and introduce the new neighbor to the town, they sit down to reminiscence about the history of the place and their part in it. This is when the stories go from being regular country tales into supernatural folklore. It’s in here the most information is given about the town, through the hauntings that happened to the characters and other town residents. By the end, we know in which world each of them exist, and how they plan to keep on living.
The plot itself is nothing to write about, after all it is not a thrilling ghost story. It’s more of a reflection on relationships and the importance of them in somebody’s lifetime. When the character of Jack (Paul O’Brien) sits between the new neighbor Valerie (Amanda Quaid), and bartender Brendan (Tim Ruddy) at the end, his story has no spiritual intervention. Instead, he gives the most human narrative we get; yet it ends up being the most haunting. The show never goes quick, never tries to speed up, never tries to be more than an account of four life-long friends talking to the new girl in town about their lives in her new home. Never once did I look at the clock.
A lot of this has to do with the performances by this ensemble. I saw Paul O’Brien, Sean Gormley, and John Keating just a few months ago in the production of “Da.” Their performances in that play were a complete delight, and they haven’t missed a step. Joined by Tim Ruddy and Amanda Quaid, this group of actors set to create a very relatable atmosphere for the audience. Because of their work, we are sucked in to every word they say. It’s amazing to see how much you can grab the audience’s attention without having cheap twists or big action pieces. Instead, it is their speeches that capture the action. The way they listen to each other and react, ultimately moves the plot forward with subtle character developments.
Director Ciaran O’Reilly’s patience as a director shows throughout the 95 minute run time. Instead of implementing tricks to keep us focused, he builds his show on small changes with lighting, good use of sound, and smart blocking. The work by designers Charlie Corcoran (Set), Leon Dobkowski (Costume), Michael Gottlieb (Lighting), and Drew Levy (Sound), is so in sync that it almost feels like they are the four friends from the play. Like their relation, it’s a strong and long one. They might not be on stage to get the ovation at the end, but remember them when you are clapping.
The Irish Repertory Theatre’s production of Conor McPherson “The Weir” will be running from July 9th until August 23rd. That’s plenty of time for you to get yourself down to Union Square and check the production at the DR2 Theater. When everything in a production works this well, you owe it to yourself.
Out of four stars:
Twisted Talk: What’s the last play in NYC that you attended? Have you seen a production of “The Weir” before? Discuss below!