The Weir at H Street Playhouse

Conor McPherson is hailed as the finest contemporary Irish playwright, and I think that title is well-deserved. The Weir was my first experience with him. The moment I walked out of the wee little theatre on H Street, I knew I was going to be finding the rest of his plays and reading them. He has this beautiful style of writing that can start out with casual banter back and forth at the bar to long, narrative stories of spirits and faeries. It reminded me very much of my own family. The Gallaghers come from County Donegal in western Ireland, and when you get us together, you are bound to hear us making fun of each other, telling stories, and getting into deep conversations that last hours. McPherson, in his 2-hour play, not only puts all of those things on stage but nails them. Being in the audience was like being at a bar with my uncles.

This is just the homiest little set you've ever seen. None of the chairs at the tables match, there's a picture of the Pope behind the bar, and comforting, familiar beers are on tap (Harp and Guinness, two of my own personal favorites). Jack and Brendan (Gordon Fulton and Eric Lucas, respectively) enter, gossiping about their friend Finbar (Brian Mallon), a married man who's been seen escorting a new neighbor around town. This new neighbor just happens to be a lovely woman named Valerie (Kerry Waters Lucas) who recently moved down from Dublin - alone. Soon, Jim (Barry McEvoy) arrives at the bar bringing more news - that Finbar is bringing Valerie to the bar that very night! When the pair arrives, the subject of spirits and faeries comes up in conversation, leading to a soul-crushingly sad story about one of the characters' past. I won't tell you what happens - you have to go see it for yourself!

Three of the five actors are originally from Ireland - Fulton, Mallon and McEvoy. Going in, I didn't know which of the actors were faking their accents and which weren't, and I'll admit that I definitely guessed wrong. Beyond that, the actors were fantastic. You could tell that their characters had been friends for a long time, and when Valerie arrived there was a definite awkwardness of having a new person in the midst of very close friends. I was just transfixed the whole time by the language and the accents and the actors. 30 minutes in, I'd abandoned my notebook and was just letting the world of the play wash over me. It was awesome. 4 stars.

The Weir
by Conor McPherson
produced by SCENA Theatre
at H Street Playhouse
running through April 24


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