BOTTOM LINE: After a successful 2013 run, Conor McPherson’s brilliant play is back at the Irish Rep and it will chill and warm your heart in equal portions.
Just around “the knock,” in a small, dull, and very old town in the Irish countryside, there’s a pub where the local men come together nightly to drink “small ones” and pints. Conor McPherson’s brilliant script for The Weir is peppered with local vernacular.
The charmingly modest pub that consists of this play’s single set (set design by Charlie Corcoran, props by Deirdre Brennan) feels worn-in and well-kept by its stoic proprietor Brendan (Tim Ruddy), who himself is like a living component of the set. Brendan is the taciturn barkeep who rarely speaks, but when he does he exhibits just how firm of a grasp he has on the lives and interrelations of his daily customers. The arrival of a feminine newcomer makes for this evening unlike any other at this pub.
As a whole, the cast has a chemistry that beautifully mimics the relations between men who drink together on a nightly basis and oscillate between warm companionship and bitter bickering. Each of these characters is lonely in his own way and the visits to the pub are a way of escaping that isolation, at least for a while. Jack (Paul O’Brien) is troubled by the lack of a woman in his life as he inevitably gets on in age; Jim (John Keating), with his mop of curly hair, is more likely isolated by his eccentric mind, and often positions himself off to the side, quietly listening—and, to be sure, thinking a lot too; Finbar (Sean Gormley) is boisterous and moneyed and the only one who is married, which itself isolates him from his envious neighbors. This being the case, it is quite upsetting when Finbar (or all people) brings around a new woman named Valerie (Amanda Quaid). Valerie, we find out, has just bought an old house in the country near town and no one can quite imagine what would bring her from Dublin to a place where nothing much seems to happen or change. Then Jack takes to telling Valerie a local tale about the house she's just moved into, a yarn that has supernatural elements.