By C.S. Gilbert
Finally! Key West Summer Stage, in its last show of the season, makes good on a promise made by the producers, TheatreXP, when the new theater venture was launched last year: high quality presentations of cutting-edge, serious drama.
There will be laughs, of course -- it's summer, after all -- but XP (for experimental) promised something deeper, real emotion evoked, provocative questions posed. Last year's trio of plays filled the bill nicely, thank you. But neither "Talk Radio" nor "You Have Hate Mail," while fine productions of, respectively, a play balancing human hubris and humor and a play deriving hilarity from human hubris aided by technology, left audiences with anything serious to think and talk about.
Not so "Seafarer" by Conor McPherson, opening at the Red Barn on Tuesday, July 24.
Lacking the incubation time and distance to let the deeper epiphanies of the play flower, your reviewer is happy to borrow a line from a review quoted on the published script's back cover: "A marriage of Goethe's 'Faust' and Pinter's 'Birthday Party.'
First of all, no one goes to sea. "Seafarer," instead, is a tale of men (and, by multiple mentions, at least a couple of women) awash in an ocean of human foibles, some of them not necessarily human. The setting, not discussed in the dialogue but detailed in the program, is on a high point of land above the sea. Also, according to the program, it is a place of myths and supernatural stories.
It is helpful here to speak just a bit of the Irish. All characters speak with Irish accents to a greater or lesser degree and it would have been useful to have a basic glossary appended to the program. Usually, context facilitates translation -- but poteen? littletrees? A slash? Had my youngest not traveled and brought home "shite," I might have had trouble there, too.
But that is a quibble. The actors are quite marvelous, handling devilishly difficult dialogue with ease. Pony Charvet looked like he might steal the show in the beginning; his portrayal of Richard Harkin, the newly blinded brother, irascible and melodramatic, is effective, occasionally stunning. In contrast, Quincy Perkins as Sharkey is quiet, sometimes intense, sometimes just subdued (depressed?), and co-director Bob Bowersox as the menacing Mr. Lockheart is similarly understated, which makes him all the more creepy.
For this show Bowersox co-directed with Randy Reams, a talented young Conch and recent college grad who came home to work at the Red Barn while pursuing a graduate degree. Bowersox's experience has complemented Reams' fresh perspective. It would be nice to see more of this sort of mentoring in local theater.
The strong cast is completed by Michael Aaglin as Ivan Curry (best portrayal of a hangover by an actor) and Justin Ahern as Nicky Giblin, possibly the nicest of the bunch.
Jack McDonald continues to handle lighting and stage management and Bowersox designed the set.
You don't believe in the devil or even the Guy Upstairs? No matter. "Seafarers" will engage viewers in the lives of these characters. You might even get goose bumps. Most certainly you'll get an interesting evening of theater. No Depends here and ultimately no Kleenex, either. But audiences will have something to think about (think "Urinetown," "Twelve Angry Men," "Proof," "Becky's New Car." Even "Sylvia").
See "Seafarers" and get in touch with alcohol, poker and the slightly darker side of what it means to be human. It plays from Tuesday through Saturday this week at the Red Barn. Tickets are $40 for opening night, $35 for the rest of the run.