Review: THE SEAFARER at Round House Theatre

Unfortunate fortune drives a non-merry Christmas

By: Dec. 12, 2023
Review: THE SEAFARER at Round House Theatre
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Five fine actors give excellent performances in Ryan Rilette's solid production of The Seafarer through December 31. Four have been tasked by the playwright with depicting characters who spend most of the 2½ hour evening becoming increasingly impaired by the quantities of alcohol they consume; all five nevertheless create detailed portraits which remain In Focus for an audience regardless of how blurred they may be to themselves and each other. At one level, Conor McPherson's play is about five men who spend Christmas eve together drinking, gambling at poker, arguing, and saying nasty things to each other. Andrew R. Cohen's splendidly seedy set--paint peels from the ceiling, bulbs are burnt out in the chandelier, duct tape keeps the sofa pillows together--suits these characters and their empty and conflict-clotted lives perfectly. Even the picture on the wall of Jesus is illuminated by a dodgy light. Max Doolittle's gloomy lighting matches Cohen's decrepitude.

But McPherson always operates on more than one level. So Mr. Lockhart may or may not be the Prince of Darkness, Ivan and Sharky may or may not be killers, Nicky may or may not have stolen Sharky's woman, and Richard may or may not believe in God. (Writers may but probably should not spoil plots with too much information, so there's no additional narrative information here. McPherson has used a 10th century Old English poem as an additional level--it depicts the horrifying night watch of a sailor which resembles the night watch in this play.)

Marty Lodge (Richard) and Chris Genebach (Sharky) play constantly quibbling and devoted brothers in whose crummy house the play's action takes place. Lodge, one of the OGs of theatre in DMV, adopts a dangerously gravelly voice which which to berate and bully people. Richard is the kind of drunk whose mood improves after about the fourth round; Lodge endows him with a watery contentment. Sharky is a tightly wound man who has gone sober for a while, probably a wise thought. But when he falls off the wagon, he's the kind of drunk who releases his fury during the first round. Genebach dials around and through the many levels McPherson has created for him; the actor understands how such men have few people skills and can be readily manipulated. Marcus Kyd as Mr. Lockhart, Sharky's main manipulator, knows how to act the kind of drunk who maintains his avowedly sneaky demeanor without altering it no matter how many rounds he's had. Michael Glenn's Ivan is the kind of drunk whose behavior and senses immediately start to fail--Ivan occasionally just passes out or falls asleep. And Maboud Ebrahimzadeh plays Nicky as the kind of drunk who gets loud and alert as an overcompensation for inebriation. Props to Rex Daugherty, the Dialect Coach who makes sure that everyone sounds Irish while drunk and can be comprehended.

If you or someone you know is at risk because of alcohol abuse, help is available 24/7: call or text 988; phone 1.800.662.4357; visit 988lifeline.org.

(Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)




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