Cast Makes the Most of ‘The Weir’ Script – Santa Cruz Sentinel

It takes more than a tiny bit of Irish heritage to appreciate the love that went into the production of “The Weir,” which runs until February 20 at the Colligan Theater in Santa Cruz.

Jewel Theater’s ingenious set designer Andrea Bechert has crafted a meticulously crafted set filled with sentimental family photos on the walls and a high shelf filled with trophies, beer mugs, candlesticks and other bric-a-brac .

Two warm brown leather chairs and (of course) the necessary bar with stools immediately tell the audience that they are in a typical pub. And as soon as the characters speak, it’s obvious that this is an Irish pub on a windy day in a small town far from a big city.

That setting — along with the thoughtful background music used throughout production — are two of the best reasons to see this uneven offering from Jewel. Music designer Neal Hellman uses tracks from 12 different Gourd Music recordings for ‘The Weir’ – including ‘Ancients Song of Mourning’ and ‘Quiet Land of Erin’.

Credit the five excellent professional actors for doing their best to keep the audience’s attention, but there’s not much they can do with a script that’s lackluster at best. At worst, it borders on boredom.

This is evident when viewers start glancing at their watch to see how much time is left until the less than two hour piece (played without intermission) is over.

There is also an assumption made by both playwright Conor McPherson and possibly director Susan Myer Silton that audiences know what a “spillway” is. This is not accurate as it is an unusual word for a dam in a stream or river used to raise the level of water or divert its flow.

It’s odd that the name of the play is centered around a small photo that one of the characters once refers to. The photo shows the nearby weir which is apparently the origin of the creation of the small town, although this is not clearly explained.

So what is “The Weir” really about? It is also an enigma.

This is the story of a typical day for locals Jack (a solid performance by David Ledingham), Jim (the sensitive playing of Shaun Carroll) and bartender Brendan (the eccentric and efficient Wiley Naman Strasser).

This trio meet at the pub almost every day to discuss everything that has happened (usually nothing) in the last 24 hours. But that day, there is a bit of gossip as they talk about a local businessman, Finbar (a racy and gentle Louis Lotorto), who is showing a woman, Valerie, around the area.

In Valérie, Katherine Stein stands up to men and adds a touch of femininity. She previously lived in Dublin but says she is now looking for some ‘peace and quiet’ and has therefore rented a place about 10 minutes up the road from the pub.

Even Valerie has a story to tell, and since it’s the only factual one, it’s all the more poignant.

Credit dialect coach Kris Danford for stifling the sometimes overly wide brogues in this production. Other than a few obscure words or phrases, most of the actors’ lines were easily understood.

However, the too long stories that men tell end up disinteresting the public. Their repetitive stories revolve around ghosts or fairies – and several have to do with stairs where these strange creatures hang out.

Ledingham has a heavy line load, but he’s up to the task, frequently sharing his stories while smoking a cigarette and drinking Guinness or another drink on tap. He delights in remembering when he came closest to his marriage. At one point, he had been dating a comely young girl from Dublin for about three years. As a rule, her Jack said, she liked him, even if he was mostly there for the sex.

Eventually, Jack says, he cut it — “and broke the poor girl’s heart.” I can’t explain it, but I just couldn’t leave this place.

At the end of the game, Jim says he has to go home to his mom (mother), so Brendon offers to drive him since he’s already taking Valerie to his rental. He mentions that “the Germans” will be arriving in a few weeks, and as they head for the door, they laugh that they may be from Denmark or Norway.

Interestingly, from the audience’s perspective, the three men each consumed what appears to be around four lagers. And to think that there was NO intermission!

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