Tuesday, March 8, 2016

theatre review - THE WEIR - Theatre Artists Studio - March 3, 2016

Michael Fleck, Steven Fajardo, Amanda Melby, and Tom Koelbel
Photo by Mark Gluckman

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 13th.

 " Conor McPherson's 1997 play The Weir documents the conversations and reminiscences that the patrons of a pub in Northwest Ireland have one evening. Five people, including four men who have known each other almost their entire lives, plus a woman who has just moved to town, tell stories of their past, many of which have a ghost story element to them....While the creative elements detract somewhat from the play, Theatre Artists Studio's production features a talented cast and steady direction. McPherson's smart script and interesting characters result in an effective journey through the terror of the unknown while also demonstrating how the comfort of friends can help one get through life. Set in Brendan's pub, the patrons include Jack and Jim, two local single men, and Finbar, a married estate agent who has brought Valerie, a new woman who has just recently moved to town, to the bar...Over ninety minutes the patrons tell their tales as Valerie pays attention, yet it is a very personal story that she tells that is the most heartbreaking....Director Carol MacLeod gets fine performances from her cast, all of whom are skilled in the requisite storytelling aspects of their parts. Michael Fleck relishes the details of the stories he tells and there is a vibrant and buoyant sense of life that he brings to the part of Jack. While all of the characters in the play exhibit a sense of loneliness, it is Jack's final story, which isn't a ghost story at all, that is especially poignant and Fleck delivers a well-rounded portrayal. As Valerie, Amanda Melby is appropriately quiet at first, yet respectful with these strangers she has just met. When Valerie tells her story, Melby's focused delivery is expert in keeping her fellow pub patrons, and the audience, on the edge of their seats as they wait to hear the story that brought Valerie to this remote part of Ireland. Melby delivers a poignant and moving portrayal....While there is nothing amateurish about Deborah Mather Boehm's set design and Stacey Walston's lighting, they both are a bit at odds with the play. Boehm's beautiful, modern and sterile bar looks lovely, but it resembles a recently updated bar that one would find in the high priced area of Dublin or London, not in a remote part of Ireland. Walston's bright lighting is professional but, like the set design, doesn't always gel with the stories, since it never evokes or even complements that spooky nature of the ghostly tales. ...The Weir is a play in which very little happens, so those who prefer a decent amount of plot may be a bit put off by its slow going, storytelling nature. Theatre Artists Studio's production has a gifted cast and clear direction that expertly portray the dramatic nature of the tales and the many emotional levels the characters exhibit...."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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