The Seafarer makes an interesting addition to the traditional holiday fare that theatres are offering. Quotidian Theatre Company’s latest production is a story of sin and redemption set in an Irish home on Christmas Eve. Despite a slow start, the play eventually evolves into a compelling story of salvation.
Sharky (John Decker) has come to the home of his older brother Richard (Steve Beall) to help take care of him since Richard was blinded by falling into a dumpster on Halloween. They are joined by Ivan (Ted Schneider) who camps out at Richard’s dumpy abode to avoid his own troubled home. In the spirit of the holiday season, Richard has also invited Nicky (David Dubov) to drop by despite the fact that Nicky is now with Sharky’s ex-wife Eileen.
Since Conor McPherson (The Weir, Shinning City) wrote this play, you can expect copious amounts of drinking and a touch of the supernatural. The latter comes in the form of Mr. Lockhart (Andy Brownstein), who Nicky brings along and who joins the group for a momentous game of poker. It seems that Mr. Lockhart is the Devil and he has come on a long-deferred mission to collect Sharky’s soul after letting him walk out of jail despite killing a man in a drunken fit. Mr. Lockhart announces to Sharky “I’m gonna win and you’re coming through the old hole in the wall with me tonight.”
Because Conor McPherson is a gifted and successful playwright who also directed the original production of The Seafarer, evidently no one was able to tell him that the lengthy first act could easily have been edited down. While most of the gang has fun with the artful dialogue, they cannot keep the play from dragging due to the excessive exposition and character backstory.
Fortunately the play picks up, thanks to a bravura performance by Brownstein as Mr. Lockhart. From the moment he enters in a dapper suit and expensive top coat, he conveys a knowing power. As he reveals his identity and his mission to Sharky, he takes on a menacing persona. His long monologue describing Hell is worth the price of admission and his sense of jealousy at God’s love for these human “insects” is palpable.
The soft-spoken Decker seems miscast as Sharky, a man who is so prone to violence that he has been banned from many pubs and cannot find work on fishing boats. He also has problems conveying the troubled heart of a sad soul who has made “a pig’s mickey of everything” in his life but who is trying to turn things around.
Beall is more successful as the cantankerous yet cheery Richard, who alone seems to have a touch of optimism and faith among the crowd. Schneider makes a convincing Ivan, another man whose excessive drinking and misbehavior has earned Mr. Lockhart’s attention. Along with Dubov’s Nicky, they make a convivial group of drunken misfits who long for human connection and who can create comedy out of misery.
Director Jack Sbarbori does a fine job orchestrating the character relationships. He is less successful as conveying a sense of mood later in the play and is not helped by a brightly lit stage.
Ultimately McPherson arranges a satisfying resolution with a nice twist at the end. While the wait seems a little longer than it needed to have been, Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of The Seafarer delivers a satisfying story of the opportunity for personal redemption.
Written by Conor McPherson
Directed by Jack Sbarbori
Produced by Quotidian Theatre Company
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
Barbara MacKay . Washington Examiner