Recommended **** As I remember my favorite things about Ireland, several cozy village pubs come to mind. As we sat drinking a pint or two, our new friends shared stories and songs with us. It was a marvelous and unique experience. While watching Irish Theatre of Chicago’s production of Conor McPherson’s wonderful Irish play, “The Weir”, all I needed was a glass in my hand to take me right back to Ireland. I really enjoyed this evening of well-written story-telling. 3 ½ Spotlights.
There’s a pretty good facsimile of an Irish country pub snuggled into one of the smaller spaces upstairs at the Den Theatre. It’s a cozy place with framed photos on the walls and an easy chair – complete with afghan throw – near the fireplace, and a bar, equipped with tap handles for Harp and Guinness. By the way, even though a script might call for liquor, I know actors substitute tea or colored water for booze. In this case however, I can’t figure out anything that could look – and foam – just like Guinness – at least nothing that’s drinkable!
When Jack (Brad Armacost) wanders into the empty pub, he hangs his coat and hat on a rack, calling for the owner. When he doesn’t get an immediate answer, he tries to fill his own glass, but the Guinness tap handle won’t work so he has to settle for a bottle when Brendan (Bradley Grant Smith), the pub owner, explains that the Guinness keg is out of order.
Jack is loud, awkward and a bit of a gossip. Although he has a comfortable income from his garage, he’s never married. Brendan is a quiet man who doesn’t share a lot, but he does mention that his sister is pushing him to sell a field which is part of the family farm. Brendan is quietly resentful of his ‘regulars’ who abandon his pub when the ‘Germans’ come in the summer.
When Jim (Jeff Christian) comes in, he settles at a corner of the bar with the racing sheet. Jack’s assistant, he supports his elderly mother.
The three settle in for a good gossip about Finbar (Dan Waller), who moved to the larger town nearby. He’s a married man who is successful in selling real estate. They are suspicious because he’s been seen all over the village with a good-looking woman from Dublin.
Soon after, Finbar escorts a woman into the pub, introducing her as Valerie (Sarah Wellington), and they take a seat at the table. Her order – a glass of white wine – after Brendan’s search turns up a bottle which might have been a Christmas gift. By the way, in an ‘art imitates life’ move, Finbar stuck some paper under one of the table legs to even it out. As a newcomer – and a pretty woman – she brings out the flirt in these lonely men.
Valerie has just moved into a house which, according to Jack, belonged to a woman named Maura who was an alcoholic. Jack, who knows the history of every house in the village, claims that Maura’s house is haunted. Then he launches into a spooky story about an ‘odd’ thing that happened to him at Maura’s house. Finbar and Jim add their own stories about things that just might be supernatural to the mix, but Finbar calls a halt to scary stories after Jim’s contribution. He starts suggesting other topics, but then Valerie volunteers to share her own sad story which has its own supernatural twist.
Irish Theatre of Chicago’s production of “The Weir” runs through January 22nd at the Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. If you’re thinking of adding “The Weir” to your schedule, I’d call for tickets quickly – there are just 38 seats (I counted) in the audience.
Running time is 1 hour, 45 minutes, no intermission.
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm;
Sundays at 3:00 pm.
There is an added performance on Wednesday, December 28th. There will be no performances on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31st) or New Year’s Day (Jan. 1st). Tickets range from $26-$30.
Park (pay in advance only at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2696158) in the Den’s lot at 1215 N. Paulina.