Have a seat and pour a pint
On a chilly winter’s evening it’s always nice to settle into a familiar place by the fire, especially when you have good company at the pub. You’ve become a regular here and can help yourself to a pint while the bartender is in the back for something. One imagines this feels even better living in rural Ireland where Conor McPherson’s world of THE WEIR takes place.
This feeling of warmth and routine is set immediately by Jack, a local mechanic, and Brendan, the owner of the pub (Brad Armacost and Bradley Grant Smith). Jack pours himself a pint —of what else but Guinness— and the two chat about their days. Their friend Jim comes in soon after. Here, we find out about the new happenings in town—a woman, Valerie, has just moved into town. She soon arrives at the bar with local businessman, Finbar.
The group settles in and you can feel the slight awkwardness of the locals adjusting to this newcomer. To try and ease into conversation, they talk about the pictures on the wall and in passing mention the dam on the nearby river called The Weir. And so, just as The Weir collects the water, these people are brought together to share their collected stories.
Different kinds of ghost stories
They each have a turn telling a story of mysterious happenings in the town. Each story brings a deeper and more haunting tale. They go from a story about fairies knocking on someone else’s door, to another about experiencing supernatural beings themselves. Eventually Jim and Finbar head out, leaving Jack to share not a ghostly story, but one that haunts him nonetheless.
These stories are aided by the atmospheric sounds from the outside and the mastery of sound designer Joe Court. The only thing you can hear is the blistery wind outside, but at just the right moment during a story it dulls in the background. Those moments pull you in and emphasize the climax of the story. You can feel the goosebumps rise on your arms. This is a simply fantastic effect that works perfectly in this setting.
The script itself is hauntingly good, receiving many awards and accolades, but the particular strengths for this production come from the cast. Being in the close intimate space at The Den Theater means every movement is caught by the audience. Each one of the actors is at ease on the stage and moves with a natural purpose. As each one tells their unique story, they easily captivate the audience. Armacost does this especially well; he’s a natural story-teller and makes you feel those feelings of what could have been.
Absolutely brilliant and heartwarming!
Acceptance and change
At the end, after all the tales are said and done, there’s a sense of change. Perhaps these locals needed to tell their stories as much as Valerie needed to tell hers in order to help her deal with the tragedies in her life. In the end they’ve accepted her and look forward to her coming round the bar—no more awkwardness here. Overall, the acting and intimacy of these stories is what will draw you into this small town world.
Sold-out through Sunday January 29, 2017.
Wednesday, February 1 at 8 pm
Thursday, February 2 at 8 pm
Friday, February 3 at 8 pm
Saturday, February 4 at 3 pm
Tickets for the extension, priced at $30, are currently available at www.irishtheatreofchicago.org. Student/seniors $5 off.
The Den Theater
1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Tickets for the extension, priced at $30, are currently available at www.irishtheatreofchicago.org. Student/seniors $5 off
Photos: Emily Schwarz
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.