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The Weir is a beguiling tale about storytelling and the profound insights about the storyteller one gleans from the telling. The Keegan’s able adaptation of the play provides plentiful delights, including the warm and inviting set design – consisting only of a simple, tiny, rural pub by George Lucas, and the subtle but emotive lighting by Dan Martin. The cast is small – five characters, spending two hours out of one night, depicted in real time – with the drama provided by a series of monologues, each revealing truths about the characters – mostly unconsciously, with one exception.

To be sure, this is an actor’s play – full of wonderful moments of ensemble humor and individual daring. The play starts with Jack (Kevin Adams), an old mechanic who can’t bring himself to leave his hometown or change his ways, serving himself a bottle of Guinness (the keg’s gone off) and studiously paying into the till until barkeep Brendan (Jon Townson) arrives. Jack’s assistant Jim (David Jourdan) follows, and the three anticipate the arrival of Finbar (Mick Tinder) and his latest effort to show up the members of this little group – by bringing in a new neighbor moved down to one of his properties from Dublin, Valerie (Susan Marie Rhea). Finbar is married, so having a single woman with him is seen as a real affront – though the group is, in their unspoken way, far more discomfited by Finbar’s accumulation of wealth and related habit of buying up local land and selling up to investors.

Tinder does quite well in his role, and reminded me a bit of Daniel Day Lewis in looks and demeanor – though he didn’t quite seem to have a handle on the accent. Adams’ performance as Jack started off feeling slightly forced – he is, after all, the frenetic engine of the group – though he seemed to grow more relaxed and natural in delivery as the stories and tension built. The deepest pleasure for me, though, came from the understated performances of Townson and Jourdan, each instinctive as the group’s caretaker and kindly ne’er-do-well, respectively.

Each story the characters tell is decorated liberally with supernatural elements, but each illustrates something vital about the characters. Finbar’s story effortlessly illustrates the his self-regard and self-serving instincts, and Jim’s story tells you more in an instant of his empathy and caring than a dozen more scenes could show. When the men have finished with their by-turns showy and unwittingly revelatory stories, Valerie seizes the narrative and turns it on its head.

Her story – which I won’t spoil for you here – shocks and reminds the audience that for all the boasting of men and self-mythologizing inherent in Irish storytelling, enduring stories are born of reality. Such moments cannot be forgotten, but only reconstructed by narrative to try to make sense of them. The scariest experiences, then, are not provided by the unknown, but the un-ignorable truths of existence that each of us one day must face. I left the theater as the characters left the stage – shaken by the reminder that the power of stories is to provide sense of events that are seemingly insensible, and that ultimately we are all confronted with memories of love and loss, not ghosts.

The Weir is at the Keegan Theatre through March 13

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