Monday, January 28, 2008

The Seafarer (The SOB Review)

The Seafarer (The SOB Review) - Booth Theatre, New York, NY

***1/2 (out of ****)

Conor McPherson's chilling new play The Seafarer is so damned good, it's practically enough to put the fear of God in you.

And it's certainly enough to make you forever stay on the wagon, lest you ever drink yourself into oblivion and fall from grace for eternity.

In his mesmerizing new and often funny morality play set on Christmas Eve -- in a hellhole of a home (courtesy of Rae Smith's shambles of a set design) in Baldoyle, a tiny town north of Dublin -- McPherson proves he's all aces. Both writing and directing this cautionary tale, he magnificently weaves a harrowing, on the edge of your seat nailbiter that's as much about giving the devil his due as it is about the potential for redemption for two card-playing good-for-nearly-nothing drunks for brothers.

The younger sibling Sharky (a somber David Morse in a wonderfully measured performance) is clearly trying to overcome his prolonged battle with the bottle. With his life littered with broken dreams, it's no wonder his wife has left him for his more youthful mate Nicky (a subtle charmer Sean Mahon). Tending to his elder sibling Richard (a breathtaking Jim Norton), who appears to have literally drunk himself blind, Sharky is now making a conscious choice for sobriety this holiday.

It certainly can't help that Richard's obsessed with drinking his way through Christmas, or that Sharky's friends Ivan (an utterly unrecognizable Conleth Hill at the top of his game) and Nicky show up for a long night of cards and hard drinking. But the hand Sharky had not expected to be dealt is manifested in a mysteriously dapper Mr. Lockhart (a devilishly delightful Ciarán Hinds) accompanying Nicky.

When Mr. Lockhart plays his hand privately with Sharky, he reveals that the two met once before -- exactly 25 years earlier that very evening. Turns out Sharky had been so incoherently inebriated that he couldn't recall the grievous sins he committed way back then. Mr. Lockhart had essentially served as his angel of mercy, albeit a dark one, providing Sharky with salvation at a steep price. Now, Mr. Lockhart is back, as promised, to collect what Sharky owes him.

Mr. Lockhart allows that all can be settled through a high stakes game of poker, giving a brilliant new twist to a deal with the devil.

What makes this play all the more gripping are the ingenious touches from the haunting lighting and sound designs offered by Neil Austin and Matthew Smethurst Evans, respectively. Another nice touch that can easily be missed if you're not looking for it is Rae Smith's costume selection for Mr. Lockhart. If there's any doubt who he really is, just check out the inside lining of his suit jacket.

I strongly recommend The Seafarer. It's one helluva play.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
After Seeing, Faring With Critics (December 7, 2007)
Seafarer Opens Sail On Great White Way Tonight (December 6, 2007)
All Of Great White Way Gleams Tonight (November 29, 2007)
Add August To The List? (November 14, 2007)
Strike Fallout, Part Two? Opening Nights In Question (November 12, 2007)
McPherson's Seafarer To Navigate Broadway In Fall (June 14, 2007)
Sunday At The Grosvenor House With Laurence (February 19, 2007)
Laurence Olivier Award Nominations Announced (January 18, 2007)

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At 21 November, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw the play at a theater in New Brunswick, or I should say the first act, after which I walked out. It doesn't matter who the actors were, I'm just not into watching a bunch of guys drinking themselves into oblivion and a plot about the devil seeking his due is old hat - boring. This was no nail biter. I frankly don't understand what all the rave's about.

At 21 November, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Anonymous, It could very well be the version you saw. The production on Broadway last year was anything but boring. It was just shy of excellent.

It just goes to show you that direction and cast can make all the difference.

Incidentally, I'll be taking in yet another version in a few weeks. Chicago's Steppenwolf is mounting its own production of the play.


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