BWW Review: THE WEIR at METROPOLITAN ENSEMBLE THEATRE - KANSAS CITY
For their current show The Weir, by Conor McPherson, the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre has transformed itself into a quaint Irish pub called "The Weir". In this production, directed by Bob Paisley, the audience is seated at small round tables in the "pub" as Brendan the barkeep (Coleman Crenshaw) serves up fresh pints while an authentic band of string players strum up an Irish jig. As the crowd settles in the lights dim and local mechanic Jack (Paul E Orwick) makes his way up to the bar. Jack and Brendan discuss their day and are then joined by Jim (Chris Roady) a handyman who also does some work for Jack. The three single men are lamenting the lonely nature of their existence as their talk turns to Valerie (Elizabeth A Hillman), a pretty young woman from Dublin who has just rented an old house in the area. She has been seen in town with Finbar (Matt Donovan), a local businessman who is married. They are soon joined by these two and begin to reminisce, telling one supernatural personal experience story after another. After each of the men, but Brendon, finish Valerie stands to tell her own tale. Unlike the others, it is obvious that Valerie's story of personal loss with ghostly happenings is sincere. Touched by what she has revealed the men shed the harsher tones from earlier to offer her a sense of comfort. Jim and Finbar leave and after they are gone Jack recalls a personal experience of love and loss that have haunted him in a similar way.
One might think of The Weir as just a series of scary ghost stories told like scouts around a campfire. However, there is a sophistication to all the stories that makes them more about lack of close relationships and missed connections than eerie tall tales. Unlike a ghost story that leaves no impact once the punch line is delivered these personal accounts leave a compelling impression. The Weir is also about community and how amid their loneliness they are all comrades. For all their cruel putdowns - played perfectly by this cast - they share a rare kinship, and quite a few drinks!
Coleman Crenshaw sets the atmosphere early on by being the actual bartender for the audience. His authentic Irish brogue and brusque barkeep manner let you know he means business in a likeable way. Paul E. Orwick gives Jack all the qualities that the elder statesman of the bar should have. His ease in guiding the conversation keeps him a step ahead of the others. Chris Roady's turn as Jim is deeper than first suspected. He is a definite part of the order and may be at its heart. Shy and lonely, but not a loner, he is genuine and open to his friends. Matt Donovan as the successful Finbar makes it obvious why the others resent him for his success. Played richly with a spark of wit we soon understand he has worked hard to get where he is and is unapologetic about it. Elizabeth A. Hillman is deeply moving as Valerie, the Dublin woman with a terrible story to tell that is delivered in a natural yet moving way.
The Weir, winner of the 1997 Olivier Award for Best New Play is now showing at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre in Kansas City, through October 29th. It's a perfect time of year to see this hauntingly evocative show. Arrive early, not just for a good parking spot, but to hear the musical pre-show. Tickets are available at metkc.org or call 816-569-3226 for more information.