There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
“We should care,” intones Iggy (Eric Lucas), waving a cigarette toward a televised news report. He issues this proclamation from his redoubt, a bar stool in the dank Belfast pub that has been his home for the past three days. “We should care, and we don’t.” His penchant for such blandly self-evident pronouncements make Iggy one of the best things about Closing Time, Owen McCafferty’s chronicle of a day in the life of an Irish pub/hotel that’s about to go under. In Lucas’ hands, Iggy’s a voluble, weak-willed creature who spends his time cadging refills, getting on people’s nerves, and fretfully avoiding the accusatory gaze of pub owner Robbie (Bruce Rauscher). Iggy’s been cheating with Robbie’s wife, Vera (Kerry Waters Lucas), which at first seems an uncharacteristically vigorous life choice for him, until the actors make it clear that Iggy simply stumbles along the path of least resistance, even when it leads him to the foot of another man’s bed. The entire cast turns in unshowy, utterly naturalistic performances, even—especially—as their long day makes its journey into a particularly boozy night. Small, sharply observed choices abound: Notice, for example, how Kerry Waters Lucas arranges her limbs in the final scene as Vera slumps, drunken and defeated, in a chair. Keegan’s production is the American premiere of McCafferty’s 2002 play, and the theater has done the playwright good service in the past with its brisk, muscular staging—and subsequent restaging—of his Mojo Mickybo. But where Mickybo radiated a propulsive inventiveness and energy, the comparatively conventional Closing Time seems to have been outfitted with an emotional circuit breaker: Only the briefest flashes of heat and light are permitted to rise above the show’s bleary fog of booze and indolence. Sure, that’s sort of the point, but between the effortlessness of the actors and the listlessness of the characters, Closing Time lacks both urgency and momentum. You sit there admiring the performance of, say, Rauscher, as Robbie desperately attempts to hold onto his livelihood and his life, but you never feel that desperation keenly enough for the play’s final scene to land as hard as it should. Which is frustrating, because the playwright has a good ear, and Keegan has an excellent cast; we really should care. We should care, and we don’t.