What: Circle Theater stage drama
Where: Central Presbyterian Church, lower level, 726 S. 55th St.
When: Friday through Nov. 2. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, plus a 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 27 only. Optional dinner an hour before curtain.
Tickets: Dinner and show $25 adults, $23 senior citizens, $20 students; show only $15 adults, $13 senior citizens, $10 students.
Information: 402-553-4715 or email email@example.com
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“The Weir,” a story full of storytelling, sneaks up on you like a ghost story, seeping quietly past your emotional defenses.
By the end of the solidly staged production at the Circle Theater, which opened Friday, you suddenly realize Irish playwright Conor McPherson's 1997 award winner isn't about spooky stories at all. It's about loneliness and friendship and the yearning to connect.
Nonetheless, every character in “The Weir” has a story to tell in Brendan's somewhat isolated hilltop pub in Ireland, as the wind whistles and the drink glasses pile up.
First Jack (Tim Duggan), an auto shop owner, drops in. Idle chatter with Brendan (Matt Allen) turns to Finbar (Michael Markey), a successful local businessman who has just sold a house. Valerie (Samantha Shatley), a pretty young woman from Dublin, is the buyer. Jack doesn't approve of Finbar, who's married, squiring the young lady around.
Jim (Cullen Chollett), Jack's mechanic, arrives, confirming that Valerie is quite pretty. Hmmm.
Time for another round when Finbar and Valerie arrive. Some ribbing of Finbar raises tempers, and soon the ghostly stories start, perhaps meant to impress the attractive newcomer.
Jack's is about a widowed local woman who heard knocking at her door, only to find nobody there. Finbar's story is next, about a woman who fell down a flight of stairs. Then Jim tells of an encounter he had while attending a funeral.
All the stories explain the inexplicable with ghostly, superstitious, spiritual conclusions, and all of it is very Irish.
As these longtime friends poke at each other, revealing bits of themselves, the audience becomes the pub's corner table. You observe, for example, that Jack and Finbar may be friends, but they don't really like so much as simply tolerate each other.
But watch what happens when it's time for Valerie's story, about a tragedy that indirectly brought her here. Like the audience, these guys hang on her every word and are deeply affected. (Shatley's delivery is spot-on and moving.) Attitudes soften. A bond has come from the stories.
Finally, as the improvised party begins to break up, Brendan reveals a chapter from his past. It involves no ghosts, but it haunts him just the same. An elusive whiff of hope arises.
Director M. Michele Phillips' staging and the ensemble's skill at focus and interplay make this all so natural, you feel like you've had your own evening at the pub when it's over. As you spill outside into the darkness, the chill wind bites a bit less as you ponder the play and its characters. For me, it managed to be ordinary and profound at the same time.
McPherson, one of the best contemporary Irish playwrights, won the Olivier Award for “The Weir” in 1999. He got a best-play Tony nomination for “Shining City” in 2004, and both Olivier and Tony best-play nods for “The Seafarer” in 2006.
“The Weir,” a one-act play in 90 minutes, takes its name from a hydroelectric dam near Brendan's pub and Valerie's new home, where waters — like stories — swirl and generate power.