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The Walter Kerr Theatre
The program notes for The Weir define a weir as "a dam built across a river to... regulate its flow." During the course of the play, the image serves as a symbolic background to the characters' often isolated and closed-in lives. 

Set by playwright Conor McPherson (St. Nicholas, This Lime Tree Bower) in a rural pub in Sligo, Ireland, The Weir presents an evening in the life of three regulars, one old friend and a stranger. Trapped in the pub by a growling thunderstorm, the five characters pass the time by telling tales of the supernatural. Like a dam or weir, the enforced delay releases each character's story in a slow, steady stream. 

The stories begin innocently enough as a way of introducing newcomer Valerie (Michelle Fairley) to local legends. The older Jack (Jim Norton) tells her about her house's haunted past. The ghost stories soon take on a personal turn as three of the men relate their own experiences with the otherworld. Only shy Brendan (Brendan Coyle) the bartender, keeps quiet, listening and watching Valerie's reactions attentively. When the men end to their tale-telling, Valerie takes her turn. The weir opens, and the course and momentum of the play change radically. 

The original London cast, brought over for the play's New York run, offers a brilliant display of ensemble work. Three out of the five characters deliver lengthy monologues, yet no one actor outshines the other. And the cast obviously feels comfortable with each other as well as with their parts. From the taciturn Jim (Kieran Ahern) to the self-made Finbar (Dermot Crowley), they make their characters are compelling and believable, both in their loneliness and in their ability and willingness to shelter one another. 

Director Ian Rickson of the Royal Court Theatre in London brings a sense of gentleness to The Weir, which won England's Evening Standard Award, the Critic's Circle Award and two Olivier Awards (including best play). While set, costumes and lighting reflect the dark mood of the inner and outer storms, the play's brisk pace and comic moments create light and anticipation. All in all, Jack, Brendan, Jim, Finbar and Valerie prove to be perfect companions for an afternoon or evening.  

© Margaret Terhune

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