February 2008 Theatre Column
February 11, 2008
Jim Norton, Sean Mahon,
Conleth Hill, David Morse
and Cirian Hinds
Last month I saw
two plays plays: Conor McPherson's The Seafarer
on Broadway and the Roundabout Theater Company’s
off-Broadway production of Beth Henley’s Crimes
of the Heart.
The Seafarer is playing
on Broadway at the Booth Theatre through March 30,
2008. The Seafarer stars: Jim Norton (as
Richard Harkin); David Morse (as Sharky); Conleth
Hill (as Ivan Curry); Sean Mahon (as Nicky Giblin);
and Cirian Hinds (as Mr. Lockhart).
Here is a quote from their press
release: “Conor McPherson's The Seafarer
is a chilling new play about the sea, Ireland, and
the power of myth. It's Christmas Eve and Sharky
has returned to Dublin to look after his irascible,
aging brother who's recently gone blind. Old drinking
buddies Ivan and Nicky are holed up at the house
too, hoping to play some cards. But with the arrival
of a stranger from the distant past, the stakes
are raised ever higher. In fact, Sharky may be playing
for his very soul.”
The play is set on Christmas Eve
in an incredibly shabby home in Dublin. The house
belongs to an old erudite drunk, Jim Norton, who
was recently blinded by an unfortunate fall into
a dumpster. This down turn in luck has necessitated
that Jim’s ne’er-do-well younger brother
Sharky come home to help out around the house.
Jim has a few friends who despite
advancing age enjoy hanging at a house where there
are no rules and a drunk can sleep off his whiskey
wherever he happens to fall. One of those visitors,
Ivan, is lying somewhere in the house as the play
begins. And wherever Ivan happens to have been,
his glasses were not and for most of the play, are
not to be found. So we now have a house populated
by two, for all practical purposes, blind drunks.
And directing traffic is the hapless Sharky, who
is trying desperately not to drink.
This motley group is soon joined
by Sharky’s ex wife’s boyfriend, Nicky
Giblin, who brings along a stranger he picked up
in the pub, Mr. Lockhart. And everyone settles down
for a long winter’s night of drink and wit
and cards. Yes, cards. No one in the house lets
blindness or drunkeness keep them from their love
of cards. But it is night of drink and wit and cards
which mask a terrifying dilemma. The devil himself
has arrived and he wants his pound of flesh. But
existential predicament or not, everyone is drunk,
and no one seems quite capable of arising to the
task of overcoming evil. But play they do, while
the devil calmly awaits his due.
Wit is the engine that drives
The Seafarer. Conor McPherson’s script
is beautifully crafted; he is a playwright who was
blessed with the gift from the Irish god of gab.
And all of the actors have exquisite timing. Of
special note are Jim Norton as Richard Harkin and
Conleth Hill as Ivan Curry; they are undoubtedly
two of the funniest actors alive.
The Seafarer is playing
at the Booth Theatre at 222 West 45th Street. Tickets
are $76.50-$96.50. By Phone - 212-239-6200 &
For more information, log onto:
Crimes of the Heart
I also saw the Roundabout Theater’s
production of Beth Henley’s Crimes of
the Heart. Crimes is directed by Kathleen
Turner and stars: Patch Darragh as Doc Porter; Jennifer
Dundas as Lenny Magrath; Sarah Paulson as Meg Magrath;
Lily Rabe as Babe Botrelle; Jessica Stone as Chick
Boyle; and Chandler Williams as Barnette Lloyd.
Paulson recently starred in Aaron Sorkin’s
cancelled TV show, Studio 60, where she
played the part of the goody-two-shoes Christian
performer, Harriet Hayes who is in love with the
cynical creator of Studio 60, Matt Albie
(played by Matthew Perry). This story was oh-so-loosely
based on the real life romance between Christian
singer Kristin Chenoweth and Aaron Sorkin.
Crimes has always been
one of my favorite Southern gothic plays. Some other
reviewers have been a little put off by Henley's
constant witty banter, but I am from the South and
I know Southern women talk just like that, all the
time and a lot.
Any theatrical production of Crimes
will, justly or not, be compared to the excellent
1986 movie version of Crimes that starred
Diane Keaton as Lenny, Jessica Lange as Meg and
Sissy Spacek as Babe. Those three actresses really
shot the ball out of the park and set an impossibly
high standard for future productions.
I saw the Roundabout Theater's
production while it was still in previews. The night
I was there, the role of Babe was played by the
understudy, Jessica Cummings. So, what did I think
about this production? Well, I thought the set as
incredible and that there were a quite a few talented
actors in the cast, especially Jennifer Dundas as
Lenny and Patch Darragh as Doc Porter. My only other
comment is that the play seemed a little disjointed,
like the production had not quite set. But that
problem is probably explained by the presence of
the understudy (who did an excellent job) on the
stage and by the fact that getting a play to settle
in, is exactly why there are previews.
Tickets are $63.75-$73.75. Order
by phone at 212-719-1300 and online at http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/1207_splash.htm.
Crimes plays at the Laura Pels Theatre
at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
at 111 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036. The
show closes on April 20, 2008.