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A CurtainUp Review
The Seafarer

He makes a pig's pickle out of everything.— Richard complaining about his brother Sharky's inability to make something out of his life.
L-R:John Tyrell as Richard, Gary Kingston as Ivan, Keith Barber as Sharkey, Jeff LeBeau as Nicky and Rich Orlow as Mr. Lockhart John Tyrell, Gary Kingston as Ivan, Keith Barber as Sharkey, Jeff LeBeau as Nicky and Rich Orlow as Mr. Lockhart.(Photo: HeyMrJason)
If there's an Irish trait that is seldom celebrated other than in plays and films, it's the sturdy constitution of their livers. Playwrights have always embraced the Irishman's ability to down huge amounts of alcohol without succumbing to anything more than an itch to wallow in sentiment or spin a tale.

No exception to that is Irish playwright Conor McPherson. In his 2006 comedy/drama The Seafarer now in an exemplary production at the Schoolhouse Theatre in Croton Falls, New York, his characters imbibe in an almost maniacal manner. Starting off with their drink of choice they soon settle for anything they can get their hands on.

Set in a truly seedy house in Baldoyle, north of Dublin, the play begins on a dank Christmas Eve. Two brothers, Sharky (Keith Barber) and Richard (John Tyrrell), share the messy dwelling pitifully decorated for the season with strings of colored lights and a scrawny Christmas tree that looks like a discard from holidays past. (Scenic designer Jason Bolen has created a real pigsty with bar signs for booze serving as touches of man cave art.)

Mutually dependent upon each other, the brothers exist in an edgy relationship. Sharky — on the wagon for a tentative three days — is caretaker for Richard who has lost his sight after falling, plastered, into a dumpster. Sharky has returned home after losing his job as a chauffeur to a wealthy man in another town. His job was lost after his boss wised up to the fact that Sharky was pursing his wife.
Sharky and Richard are not alone when the play begins. Their bumbling friend and fellow alcoholic, Ivan (Gary Kingston), has slept over after being thrown out of his house by his wife because of his drunken sprees. In the previous boozy night's party he has lost his glasses, so with Richard blind and Ivan seeing only a blur, Sharky is the only one with any perspective on the days events.

Richard babbling and cursing between drinks (he's enraged about "winos" who congregate on his back yard) is eager to throw a Christmas party for his close circle and maybe a few other friends. A grocery list is hastily written: mince meat pies, cheese, smoked salmon — and plenty of booze.

Sharky becomes angry when Richard asks Nicky (Jeff LeBeau) a local blow-hard to drop by for a drop of Christmas cheer. Nicky had taken up with Sharky's ex-girl friend when he left for work out of town. Nicky, wearing what is obviously a knock-off leather jacket, proudly brags that it is genuine Versace.

The arrival of Nicky is enough to upset the balance of the little party but it is the guest he bring with him that fuels the play and alters its direction from drunken Irish comedy to the supernatural Impeccably dressed (camels hair coat and trimly cut suit) Mr. Lockhart (Rich Orlow) is an odd bird right from the start.

When he and Sharky are alone (the others have gone out to chase away the "winos") Lockhart announces rather casually that he is the Devil and has come to collect Sharky's soul in payment for past bad deeds. He plans to claim his prize in a poker game that Richard, Ivan and Nicky are organizing.

Though "giving the devil his due" is a familiar dramatic scenario, it's made more sinister in a long soliloquy by Lockhart who describes the hell that Sharky is destined for. He warns of being locked in a coffin at the bottom of the sea where he will endlessly pray for death. There's a funny bit when Lockhart tries to explain why he doesn't like music of any kind and why he secretly envies mortals because they are alive. Orlow's portrayal of the cold and calculating visitor from the lower depths is almost a warning against fine tailoring.

Up to this point the play has been a roller coaster of laughs and boozy camaraderie. Diretor Pamela Moller Kareman has cast the play with an expert quintet of actors and has coaxed thoroughly raucous performances from them. She has steered the production with skill and only the playwright's overwritten script mars an otherwise brilliant production.

The second act focuses (too lengthily) on the poker game and even though all actors do well by their expressions of hope, bluff and resolve, it's still too much of the same thing. (Cutting twenty minutes or so would certainly tighten things up favorably.)

All of the actors are more than praiseworthy with excellent accents. Tyrell is outstanding as the selfish, childish Richard — a mean pixie of a man. Matt Stine's sound design, which features the roar of the coastal winds, adds an eerie element of the supernatural. The redemptiv,e ending may be a bit pat but it's logical enough and, like all good tales wraps things up with a smile.

The Seafarer By Conor McPherson
Director: Pamela Moller Kareman
Cast: Keith Barber (Sharky), John Tyrell (Richard), Gary Kingston (Ivan), Jeff LeBeau (Nicky), Rich Orlow (Mr. Lockhart)
Set design: Jason Bolen
Lighting design: David Pentz
Costume design: Kimberly Matela
Sound design/original music: Matt Stine
Stage Manager: Theresa Labreglio
Through April 5
The Schoolhouse Theatre 3 Owens Road Croton Falls, New York
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Performances: Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3. Tickets (general admission) are: $35 (Thurs. Fri.) $37 (Sat. Sun. matinee
Reviewed by Chesley Plemmons on March 21.
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