Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's recent review of The Barricade Boys
Set in Ireland twenty years ago, and taking place on Christmas Eve in a rundown house on the outskirts of Dublin, the plot focuses on two brothers and their friends. Sharky is a broken man who is struggling with his inner demons and the consequences of his past choices. He has come home to care for his older brother Richard, who has recently gone blind due to an accident. As the story unfolds, we meet Richard's friends and learn about Sharky's troubled life, his battles with alcoholism, his inability to consistently hold a job, and his strained relationship with his friends and family. The plot takes a supernatural turn when a mysterious stranger named Mr. Lockhart arrives, bringing an eerie and foreboding presence to the jovial holiday setting.
The brilliance of McPherson's script lies in his ability to write fleshed out, realistic characters, each with distinct personalities and struggles. While the arrival of Mr. Lockhart adds drama and intrigue to the plot, McPherson balances it with plenty of humor and humorous situations while also skillfully exploring the depths of human despair. Also, the unexpected twists in the play, including the supernatural elements, never feel forced. McPherson's skill in depicting the complexities of human nature and the constant and nagging reality of bad decisions one made in the past while setting them against an abundance of levity and resulting in an exceptionally rewarding drama is why I think this is one of the richest and most rewarding plays of the past twenty years.
Once all of the elements come into play, McPherson also manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seats, and Cody Dull's direction and a cast never let the beauty of McPherson's structure and prose down. As Sharky, Garrad Perry beautifully depicts the complex feelings of regret as he is forced to confront his past and the choices that brought him to this fateful evening. Sharky doesn't have a lot of dialogue, but watch Perry's exceptional facial expressions and body language, especially in the second act, to witness the confusion, resilience, and, ultimately, hope the character feels. It's a fleshed out and lovely performance of this emotionally complex man.
Likewise, Bobby Havens is simply superb as Richard, the blind older brother of Sharky, infusing the character with a perfect blend of humor and poignancy. Havens has an excellent command of the character and his sharp comic timing offers many moments of levity and a temporary reprieve from the always present tension in a performance that is rich and authentic with a beautiful underlying presence of vulnerability. As Richard barks orders from his dirty chair, Havens' charismatic presence, skillful line delivery, and nuanced expressions create an endearing and lovable character.
In supporting roles, CD MaCaulay is wonderful as Mr. Lockhart, who McPherson masterfully depicts as a symbol of the choices we make and the consequences that inevitably follow. MaCaulay's commanding portrayal has the right balance of mystery and malevolence and he adds tension to the plot, creating an intriguing depiction of this character. Chris Ulbrich is hilarious as Ivan, the quirky oddball who adds much comic relief to the production. As Nicky, the man who is now living with Sharky's ex, Taylor Aldridge exudes charm and a laid-back, nonchalant sensibility.
The Irish accents of the entire cast are authentic and consistent, and their chemistry is realistic, with expertly depicted banter and camaraderie, which helps to draw the audience into the lives of these interesting characters. Dull's set design immerses the audience in Richard's ramshackle home and his costume designs are character appropriate. The lighting by René Lovecraft does a fairly good job in depicting the bright daytime scenes when the play first starts as well as the darker nighttime moments.
The Seafarer is a humorous comedy and also an emotional rollercoaster of a play that keeps the audience guessing until the final moments. With stellar performances and direction that perfectly balances the play's darkness and humor, Stage Left's production is exceptional.
The Seafarer runs through January 20, 2024, at Stage Left Productions, 11340 West Bell Road, Suite 105, Surprise AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.stageleftaz.com or call 623-285-6321.
Director/Set/Costume/Sound Design: Cody Dull