Written by Conor McPherson
Directed by Anne Marie Szucs
Starring Justin Deveau, Gwyneth Kellii, Kieran O’Callaghan, Gavin O’Toole, Cody Porter
Runs Wednesday, Oct. 17 - Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m., matinée show Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. No show on Monday, Oct. 22.
Walterdale Playhouse (10322 83 Ave.)
Starting at $12 at tixonthesquare.ca
With winter threatening to arrive all too soon, there’s no better remedy for the impending cold nights than sitting around a fireplace and trading stories. The characters of The Weir certainly know the value of a good story or two as they gather for an unforgettable night at their local Irish pub.
It’s a stormy, wet and windy night as three local men arrive at the pub, greeted comfortably by the bartender, Brendan (Justin Deveau). Tonight, however, is unusual: one of the men, Finbar (Gavin O’Toole) has brought along a woman, newly arrived from Dublin to move into an old house nearby. The presence of an attractive woman adds a bit of tension to the room but once the men begin to drink, they also begin to tell stories and the play’s central theme emerges — the power of story to create connections between people.
The stories start out as tales of ghosts and fairies connected to the old house Valerie (Gwyneth Kellii) has bought, but as the evening continues they grow more personal, touching on failed relationships, the darker sides of village life and moments of intense personal grief. All of this would be very grim if not for the balancing element of a cozy pub atmosphere, a couple pints of Guinness and a fair bit of humour.
The warmth of the pub atmosphere is key to the success of The Weir as a play. The production’s strongest point is its ability to transform the seats of the theatre into the seats of a pub where you just happen to be overhearing a night of stories. Everything from the technical elements to the cultural details to the non-verbal communication between characters contributes to the believability of the characters and, by extension, the believability of their stories.
Tales of traditional fairy roads, characteristic accents and turns of phrase create part of the strong sense of atmosphere in The Weir, but the set and lighting also play a key role. Yellowish lighting bathes the worn wooden floor boards and shabby but comfortable chairs of the set in a golden glow. Through the windows, shadows of branches sway menacingly, and when lightning flashes, thunder follows quickly, the rough weather outdoors only enhancing the cosiness of the interior.
The physical portrayal of the characters also adds to the play’s believability. While the four men’s light-hearted banter conveys the impression of life-long friends, the body language of these men conveys more than words ever could. The derisive looks that Jack throws Brendan and Jim (Kieran O’Callaghan) when urban businessman Finbar makes remarks about village life add a large dose of humour. Also adding comedy is Brendan’s somewhat hangdog reaction to the presence of a female in his pub. For her part, Kellii portrays Valerie’s actions with just the right mix of tension and ease for a stranger trying to make herself feel at home in a new place.
The Weir may begin with the introduction of a stranger into an established community, but by the play’s end, the sharing of stories has reshaped the connections between the characters to include Valerie. A weir is a type of barrier, but by the end of The Weir, the characters have broken down many of the human barriers between themselves.
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