Christmas eve, as celebrated on the stage of the George Street Playhouse, is a dark, brooding and volatile affair as created by the Dublin born dramatist, Conor McPherson. The Seafarer, which made its Broadway debut last year, is a play of extraordinary grit, governed by crisp, flinty dialogue and distinctively acted. At the opening night performance George Street artistic director David Saint praised McPherson as the preeminent successor to Sean O'Casey as Ireland's most important theatrical voice.
The play is set in Dublin's Baldoyle coastal district in the grimy home of brothers Sharky (David Adkins) and Richard.(David Schramm). Sharky, who is on the wagon (or "on the dry" in the playwright's words) is a sometimes fisherman and chauffeur who impulsively beat a man to death in a brawl. He now attends to Richard, his booze soaked older brother who lost his sight after falling into a dumpster in search of some discarded rolls of wallpaper.
Spending most of the holiday in search of his eyeglasses is sidekick Ivan (William Hill), a former night porter and another habitual sot who stumbles through the play with great comic relish. Gathering for a game of poker they are joined by Nicky (acted with slick swagger by Matthew Boston) and the ominous Mr. Lockhart (Robert Cucciolii), a sullen and sinister image of the Devil incarnate.
The liquor, or "holy water," flows generously. No one sops it up as well as Richard, which Schramm plays with alcoholic grandeur and bellowing bluster. The plays rollicking dark humor is tempered by the visitation of Lockhart who appears to harbor some dark secrets of the past including Ivan's involvement in a fatal hotel blaze.
Cuccioli, who was Broadway's Jekyll and Hyde and boasts a rich legacy of Shakespearean villains and heroes, offers a chilly account of the ominous doctor of doom and foreboding. Adkins defines despair and defeat with the sullen soulfulness of a born loser.
Anders Cato has staged the play with a governing accent on the crudely rhythmic pub chatter and a fierce physical thrust that dominates the action. The set as created by R. Michael Miller is an ill kept home in dire need of a housekeeper and only the Lord knows what is crawling about on that sofa.
(Playing through Dec. 14)