For all you theatre-goers out there, I heartily recommend a play I have recently seen called The Seafarer. It is playing at the Booth theatre at 22 W. 45th st., NYC and it is spellbinding, Irish, spiritual, mystical and finely performed. You may recognize all,if not many, fine male actors in this performance, and, if not, you will have a thirst to see all of them perform again, for their performances were a real tour de force! There are no women in this play. The play is Irish, very Irish. Therefore, the viewer is welcomed into an arena of basic Irish male traditions(call it debauchery, then guilt,if you will), humor, alcohol, catholicism, traditions, and catharsis.
There is an ancient anglo-saxon poem called The Seafarer, author unknown, but it begins:
"I can make a true song
about me myself,
tell my travels,
how I often endured
days of struggle,
(How I) have suffered
grim sorrow at heart,
have known in the ship,
I read the poem thoroughly before going to the theatre because I was taking my former English professor, the one who taught the James Joyce course. She is a former nun, who is very strict about her knowledge of Irish literature and I knew I had better be able to discuss the play in all its literary aspects. She and I have remained friends since she directed my M.A. program, and when she called and said I want you to take me to the theatre and I want front row orchestra seats, I immediately ran to task as I formerly did in her classroom. She is awesome and quirky and very Irish, too and it is always a learning experience to be with her. I kept imagining what the poem and the Broadway production had to do with each other and the lines that I formerly quoted envelop it all.
The stage setting does not change from beginning of the play to the end but the lighting does emphasize lightness to darkness. It is an old Irish home inhabited by drunken male relatives and friends after a night of heavy drinking on Christmas Eve morning and the day thereafter(Christmas Day). All of the Irish catholic aspects are there: the picture of the sacred heart of Jesus, (known to all catholics to be protector of home life) the bathroom(James Joyce was extremely scatalogical so toilet flushing is a must); the card table, kitchen -off set. It is related as a typical suburb with pub, churches, shops. All of the action takes place within the livingroom among the five Irish male actors. It is noted that the area in which this play takes place is known in Ireland as a focus of Irish myth and legend. And, even though it appears to be a yearly occurrence the mysticism seeps in gradually and very eerily among the drinking and cardplaying male occupants of the home.
David Morse(The Green Mile, Disturbia, John Adams,) plays the Seafarer or wandering brother upon whose actions the play focuses. He has come home to take care of his older brother after a secret life of wandering and philandering. However, the older brother's(Jim Norton) actions and words reveal an interesting twist as he drinks and proselytizes throughout the entire play about family relationships and duties and friendships while drinking heavily with his friend. His performance is mind-blowing! Ciarin Hinds(Julius Caesar in Rome, the Road to Perdition) plays the Faustian character who catapults all others to extreme and pivots the drama into a realm of good vs. evil gradually and mysteriously. Ivan(Conleth Hill) lends a comic relief to the light-hearted turned serious expectant drama as the viewer is brought to full expectancy of pity, relief and total catharsis. There are many elements in this play of James Joyce and Goethe mixed with a fond yet sorrowful kinship(for me anyway) of Irish humor and life.
I think I have become jaded by fillms today that receive so many accolades(No Country for Old Men) wherein evil overcomes good. In this mystical Irish play, directed by Colin McPherson(The Good Thief, the Weir, etc.) an old aged beauty occurs in all the debauchery of the human being. I like that. To know, which is what the playwright reveals, that the human can be flawed and still be salvaged in all his/her sinfulness is relief. Isn't relief what we are looking for when we go to the theatre? All this, with fine actors to boot!!
Because my former, quirky professor/friend had to go to the bathroom after the theatre,Ii got to walk down the street with Ciarin Hinds who was just coming out of the stage door. Wow! What a treat! You gotta love these Irish!
I know this runs on limited engagement, so please hurry, if you can. It is truly a grand performance.