Theater Review: “The Weir” at HART

CHILL FACTOR: Mike Yow, Eryn O'Sullivan, David Hopes and Jason Williams perform in The Weir at HART Photo by John Highsmith

The wind whips and the air has a chill on an Irish night. The only thing darker are the tales being told within the walls of the sleepy little pub where Connor McPherson’s The Weir takes place. Haywood Arts Regional Theatre is serving up something spooky for the season.

Director Frances Davis guides a skilled collection of professional actors on a brooding journey that runs without an intermission. The drama is set in the Irish countryside, at a pub inhabited by regulars who are alternately friendly and a bit surly. They spin tales for a newcomer named Valerie who is introduced by Finnbar, a former resident.

Mike Yow is great as Jack, who is the surliest of the lot, and likes to give David Hopes‘ Finnbar a hard time. Hopes is always a delight to watch on stage. ¬†Jim and barkeep Brendan, played by Jason Williams and Stephen Gonya¬†respectively, try to keep the peace. They add character and texture to the loosely woven tapestry of the evening, which revolves around stories of a supernatural nature. The pints pour and the stories flow, perhaps as a way for the pub regulars to impress young Valerie, or perhaps to one-up each other.

Eryn O’Sullivan adds authenticity to the play with her perfect cadence and accent. She is spot on in her moment of sharing her own tale of terror with the others. Her male counterparts are a bit more Americanized in both dialect and phrasing.

There are a couple of ¬†confusing points. Yow, who is excellent in the role of Jack, refers to others as “young fella,” despite being clearly younger than many of his other castmates. And, in a photo from the early 1950s that is referenced, Jack is said to have been 7 years old. But Valerie’s daughter is said to have been born in 1988 and a bottle wine from 1990 is joked as “vintage.” These details make it hard to figure out the timeframe. Minor quibbles, but it did take me out of the show for a few moments as I tried to reconcile the ages and dates.

The set is impressive, including a fully functioning bar with working taps. It has all the look and feel of a real Irish pub, complete with a wood stove in the corner to ward off the cold. By the night’s end, the shared ghost stories offer the kind of chills that even a fire can’t chase away.

The Weir continues at HART through Sunday, Nov. 1, with performances Fridays and Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, at 3 p.m. Mild language warning. $7-$24

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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