note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
You might not think so at first blush, but SpeakEasy Stage’s delightfully chilling THE SEAFARER (playing through Dec. 14th) is actually a dark, brooding, Dublin CHRISTMAS CAROL. The Conor McPherson tale of redemption is set on Christmas Eve, just like the Dickens’ story --- and McPherson’s central character, like Scrooge, has given up on happiness when he’s visited by a ghost (of sorts) from a Christmas twenty-five years past.
Director Carmel O’Reilly reunites some of Sugan Theatre’s best collaborators from seasons past as well, making THE SEAFARER crackle with suspense. Even before the play begins, when Billy Meleady enters the sorry, bottle strewn parlor and flicks at a finicky bulb illuminating a portrait of Jesus, you know something bad is going to happen--- because that bulb just gives up the ghost (so to speak). J. Michael Griggs’ inspired, down-at-heel living room set is plastered with ale and beer posters so it’s certain some serious drinking will follow. And does it ever!
Meleady has returned to the old homestead to care for his seedy, alcoholic, recently blinded brother---not an easy task given the old boy’s nasty temperament. Meleady is as melancholy and defeated as Bob Colonna is oblivious of his younger brother’s pain. The two play off each other seamlessly, no piece of cake given McPherson’s staggered, halting dialogue. The two play host to a riot of thirsty guests, including Larry Coen as a hilarious sad sack whose wife has pitched him out, never a good sign on Christmas Eve. McPherson’s deft hand at storytelling keeps you so entertained that you don’t see the delicious end coming right at you.
Ciaran Crawford adds a nice edge as Meleady’s rival and Derry Woodhouse commands the stage as the elegant, eerie stranger with the hidden agenda. Woodhouse’s ironic laugh seems to emanate from below the floorboards---and the low notes in his voice literally bounce off the walls. You do not want this man in your house and you certainly do not want him in your poker game.
Woodhouse is plenty scary, even without John Malinowski’s unholy lighting for his horrific and because of his skillful portrayal, actually touching “perverse ode” to mankind. I felt pity for him. Benjamin Emerson’s howling wind conjures up a bleak image of the lonely mariner, like the Flying Dutchman, doomed to sail the seven seas for eternity.