The Weir (2013)
If you don’t believe in specters, spirits, and all things supernatural, the appeal of The Weir — and much of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s otherworldly oeuvre — will likely elude you.
McPherson (The Seafarer, Shining City, Dublin Carol) loves nothing more than a good old-fashioned ghost story, and his magical pub-set drama The Weir — now receiving a handsome revival at Off Broadway’s Irish Repertory Theatre — features four whoppers, each more outlandish than the next. After cracking open a bottle of Guinness (only because the tap is busted!), cranky old-timer Jack (Dan Butler) gets the spooky night started with a haunted-house anecdote. Self-important Finbar (Sean Gormley) follows with his own I-see-dead-people confession. Mama’s boy Jim (John Keating) unearths a bone-chilling gravedigger tale. And when they’re sure they’ve impressed — or scared the bejeezus out of — new-girl-in-town Valerie (Tessa Klein), she shares a deeply personal paranormal experience that leaves the gents stammering with disbelief and practically paralyzed with fear.
Yet in director Ciarán O’Reilly’s production, the yarns aren’t as haunting as they could, or should, be. It’s not the narration. The actors — particularly the craggy, shock-haired Keating and Billy Carter as Everyman bartender Brenden — are quite fine, even if Butler (a.k.a. ”Bulldog” Briscoe on TV’s Frasier) is a bit too young and buoyant to be believable as ”an auldfella” like Jack. Rather, it’s the atmosphere…or lack thereof. The lighting is too glaring, the sound effects too weak (the blustery wind everyone discusses upon entering is little more than a whistle). And despite the cozy confines of Irish Rep, we never really feel like we’re allowed inside the pub, that we could be fellow bar patrons having a pint and eavesdropping on the colorful chatter. The intimate Irish Rep revival — well appointed though it is — simply doesn’t cast a spell as the original (much bigger) Broadway version did. That’s hard to believe. B
(Tickets: IrishRep.org or 212-727-2737)