Leslie's Omnibus

Pub Crawl

So what are the critics saying about Seanachai Theatre Company's production of The Weir?
"The Weir" always owes part of its success to a set designer's vision. The atmospheric touches have to be just right to move the audience into the total picture. Here the worn pub set by Robert Groth and Jenniffer J. Thusing is perfect in every detail, from the massive bar to the family pictures on the wall and the iron stove around which the storytellers gather.

Director Miller found the perfect actor in Armacost, who gives a standout performance as the likable Jack, a man who has never married and claims he has no regrets. But as his tale unfolds, he clearly does have problems with his solitary life.

Theis is suitably manic as always as Finbar, a man whose mission is to succeed above everyone else. And Wellington carefully etches a woman filled with pain and loss who is trying her best to recover some semblance of happiness.
-- Mary Houlihan, Chicago Sun-Times

Perhaps you saw the play at the Steppenwolf about 10 years ago. I thought that version was quite good, but the current effort from Seanachai Theatre Company is far more effective in capturing a type of campfire intimacy, and director Matt Miller uses the small-ish confines of Seanachai's space to the show's advantage (even if the theater's air conditioning isn't quite up to the task). The set from Robert Groth and Jenniffer J. Thusing, with its dark wood tones and old photos on the wall, is evocative enough that you may want to climb in there for a drink yourself....

What is a belief in the supernatural, after all, if not an explanation for things that go bump in the night? McPherson's script takes it a step further, to include all the things that go bump in our minds. Certainly those assembled in the pub have plenty of baggage to go around, and Miller's cast embodies a believable, lived-in chemistry as longtime neighbors who have forged friendships out of circumstance — their nightly pub stops a brief reprieve from self-imposed isolation.

Jeff Christian's mama's-boy handyman aches with incipient loss and confusion.
-- Kerry Reid, Chicago Reader
Under the direction of Matt Miller and dialect coaching of Barbara Zahora, THE WEIR ensemble is authentic in pub talk, walk and gawk. To impress the feminine stranger, the conversations between Brad Armacost (Jack) and Kevin Theis (Finnbar) is a healthy pour of boast with a shot of swagger. Armacost is outstanding as the charismatic Irish drunk that hold courts with his nightly tavern rehashing of the past. Theis is hilarious as he competes with Jack's overshadowing presence. By bragging, he continually sets himself up as the arse of Jack's joke. Meanwhile, the gawkers, Brad Smith (Brendan) and Jeff Christian (Jim) are delightful as the awkwardly entranced barflies with the lady company. Smith's bashful bartender, debating over joining in a libation, is understated charming. Christian is a perfect social misfit that bumbles into the limelight with a graveyard remembrance. The chemistry between the guys is like good Irish whiskey. It goes down smooth with a bit of a bite and lingering giddy affects. Holding her own with the tavern buddies, Sarah Wellington (Valerie) is equal parts frivolous and poignant. She flirts with tease expertise and then halts the playful banter with a haunting narrative.
-- Katy Walsh, The Fourth Walsh
This is a movingly powerful drama that is a tribute to the depth of the human spirit. Seanchai Theatre Company’s production i[s] filled with terrific performances led by the brilliant work from Brad Armacost. This is marvelous Irish storytelling.
--Tom Williams, Chicago Critic
The ensemble is on top of a tough script filled with demanding monologues. The actors goose the humor with nice, natural touches; Christian’s awkward pauses and over-long eye contact are genius. But the jewel of the evening is Armacost; his mundane tale of love and life squandered is heartbreaking; his pain is very much of this realm.
-- Lisa Buscani, New City Stage

I've seen it, and I can tell you it's a marvelous production. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself a Guinness or a Harp from Seanachai's concessions before you enter the theater, because it'll make you feel even more a part this lovely story.

One more thing -- yes, there are tales of faeries and ghosties and other chilling fair... but there's also a ton of humor in this play, too.

This only plays through October 3rd. What are you waiting for? Go buy a ticket!

(Photos by Eileen Molony.)

Update: To prove it's not just me, I received this email from my friend Paul: "Saw it Sunday; it was fantastic."

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