Also see Fred's review of A Civil War Christmas
It's Christmas Eve in the rundown, uninviting living area co-owned by Richard Harkin (Edmond Genest), who recently became blind. Designer Adrian W. Jones' set includes shabby looking wallpaper, flooring, rugs and so on. Stumbling in with cuts and bandages upon his face and hands is Richard's younger brother Sharky (Dean Nolen). A very drunk and rotund Ivan Curry (John Ahlin) cannot locate his eyeglasses and plops down upon a well-worn, old sofa. Later, Nicky Giblin (Chris Genebach) comes in and he's fresher looking than most in this play. Besides, he seems to have taken Sharkey's wife. Mr. Lockhart (Allen McCullough), wearing a suit and looking more than a tad sinister, walks in with Nicky. McCullough's Lockhart is haughty, arrogant and aggravated. The instant he appears, the play turnsfor the better.
The Seafarer is set in a coastal town of North Dublin called Baldoyle. During much of the early going, Ivan and Richard vie for any kind of booze around the place. Genest, a veteran actor who has performed often and well throughout New England, demonstrates brilliant technique. The actor fully and physically inhabits his character. Since Richard and a dumpster collided on Halloween, he cannot see, asks often for his stick (cane), and sometimes seems to be falling apart. Yet he's filled with bizarre energy, badmouths those around him, and carries the first hour of the play upon his shoulders. The surprisingly graceful Ahlin, too, is superb. But the beginning portion of the play doesn't really go anywhere. One yearns for an edit.
The entire script turns when Mr. Lockhart pronounces that he has arrived to snag Sharkey's soul. During the second act, all engage in a poker game that cannot end easily or well. Lockhart is vengeful, icy and, forgive this, diabolical. During the first act of The Seafarer, McPherson skillfully supplies some comedy. The play's conclusion is suitably devoid of humor.
This is a playwright who is adept with dialogue. The Seafarer is slow, but it is composed by one who has an ear for language. Each of these actors impressively nails his character. Director Henry Wishcamper does what he can, but he's saddled with lack of storyline progression for too, too long. The talented McPherson does not present a hook necessary to engage theatergoers. During much of the first act of the play, we witness lowlife type individuals who yearn for one last drop of any liquor they can findin, for example, old cans and bottles.
McPherson's dramatic impact occurs when Mr. Lockhart makes his entrance and confronts Sharky, but conflict between characters is late in developing. Director Wishcamper, through no fault of his own, cannot pull along the viewer until the playwright supplies a pivotal tense moment.
The Seafarer continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through December 28th. For ticket information, call the box office at (860) 527-7838 or visit www.theaterworkshartford.org.
- Fred Sokol