Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
“You have to relish the details of something like this,” says a storytelling character in The Weir, but the audience members at a recent matinee performance were limited in their relishing ability by factors beyond the Quotidian Theatre Company’s control. It’s hard to picture yourself in a chilly pub at night in a remote corner of rural Ireland, silent but for the whooshing of the wind, when the local temperature has hit an unseasonable high and jackhammers from a nearby construction site punctuate the locals’ comments about “peace and quiet.” But Quotidian’s verisimilitude is strong otherwise. Most important, the cast’s Irish accents are credible enough to avoid detracting from Conor McPherson’s Celtic tales of ghosties and wee folk. The setup of the play is pretty rudimentary: On the aforementioned frigid evening, Jack (Steve LaRocque) and his co-worker Jim (Ted Schneider) chat with barkeep Brendan (Darius Suziedelis) about the new woman in town, how she’s being squired around by a married man whose intentions might be more than neighborly while they, all bachelors, remain without hope of romance. Soon—though perhaps not soon enough for dramatic momentum—the objects of their gossip arrive, and the five of them set to drinking and trading tales. It’s pretty much one ghost story after another, but the story that Valerie (Stephanie Mumford) tells is the most gripping of all. In McPherson’s script, stories serve not only as dramas within themselves, but also as vehicles for character development, flirtation, and even battle: Jack is furious when Finbar (John Decker) goads him into the first tale, about the “fairy road” that runs through Valerie’s house. The stories are gems, and, for the most part, the characters are finely developed by director Jack Sbarbori and his cast. Decker’s Finbar is suitably unctuous and showoffy, Suziedelis’ shy barkeep an understated pleasure. LaRocque makes the audience believe in the soft heart of the crotchety old garage-keeper without making Jack either a stereotype or an object of pity. Schneider’s Jim, with his mama’s-boy backstory and his creepy ghost tale, seems more interesting than the script gives him time to be; Mumford’s Valerie seems less so: She’s not meant to dance on the bar of Sbarbori’s letter-perfect taproom set, but she fails to attract or exude much energy—until she launches into her own haunted tale. The Weir is under two hours of real-time observation in which nothing much happens—but it happens with a healthy dose of warmth and Guinness-tinged local color.
—Pamela Murray Winters