The esteemed playwright Conor McPherson's Tony and Olivier award nominated drama, "The Seafarer," graces the stage at the Den Theatre in Wicker Park. The Seanachai Theatre Company launches its 2013/14 season with this drama, packing a profound punch, on the intense, often sensitive, taboo subjects of family dysfunction, brotherhood loyalty, gambling, morality, and alcoholism. Perhaps Eugene O'Neill, Ernest Hemingway, and Samuel Beckett, known for their masterpieces on these very themes, were an inspiration and influence on McPherson. At the core of the play is the story of the Harkin brothers: James "Sharky" (Dan Waller) and brother Richard (Brad Armacost), along with burly friend Ivan (Ira Amyx). It is a Christmas eve,in Dublin, Ireland, much like any other, laden with heavy drinking of whiskey, card playing, and male bonding of kindred spirits. The plot quickly unravels, as these characters head down a 'slippery slope,' with many surprises, including a visit from Nicky (Shane Kenyon), who is now the man in Sharky's ex-wife's life; and a dapper 'stranger come to town,' the devil incarnate himself, in the guise of Mr. Lockhart (Kevin Theis). Lockhart has come to claim Sharky's soul, over a game of poker, in which stakes are high and suspense insurmountable. In Act 2, this seemingly friendly game of poker takes a dark turn, in which Lockhart reminds Sharky of a debt from the past, long overdue.
Similar to themes in many a DH Lawrence novel, play, or poem, this show deals with all sorts of working drifters and drinkers, forever in debt. As Sharky (Waller) physically quivers and pales, in fear of his potential fate, he delivers a truly standout performance. He is bullied and berated by Lockhart, as the cat and mouse caper escalates. If he wins, he is exonerated. As this game of poker progresses, each person announces his hand; it is a game of fate, with twists and turns abundant. The actors in this production have many credits to their names, building their careers upon many accolades and ovations, including being proud members of the Seanachai Theatre ensemble.
A wonderful play to see this holiday season, as it delivers a poignant message, serving as yet another feather in Conor McPherson's cap. The play in its entirety contains a significant amount of dark humor, transforming despair into hope a la "The Seafarer," an old Anglo'Saxon poem, "He know not, Who lives mostly on land, how I have spent my winter on the ice cold sea, Wretched and anxious, in the paths of exile, Lacking dear friends, hung round by icicles, While hail flew past in showers.
Den Theatre 1333 N Milwaukee Ave. Chicago
Through January 5th Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays 7:30PM; Sundays 3PM
(866) 811-4111 www.seanachai.org