Friday, January 20, 2017

The Seafarer: a staged reading at Tacoma Little Theatre

from left, Brian Jansen, Frank Thompson and Sean Raybell, photo by Erin Chanfrau

The Seafarer by the great Irish playwright Conor McPherson  is among the best plays I have seen in my career as a theater critic. It was my choice as best drama when done by Harlequin Productions four years ago, and now it is playing  for one night only as a staged reading as part of Tacoma  Little Theater's "Off the Shelf" program. If you appreciate hard-hitting drama, you owe yourself the pleasure of seeing it.

The entire play takes place on Christmas Eve a alcoholic Sharkey, played by Brian Jansen, his equally drunken brother Richard (Frank Thompson), and their friends Ivan (Sean Raybell) and Nicky (Nicky Giblin) play poker with Sharkey’s soul at stake; and a mysterious stranger played by Robert McConkey

“Playwright Conor McPherson's mysterious play is a fascinating exploration of the human struggle, and its divine implications,” says director Erin Chanfrau. “The characters are amusing, kind, crusty, hostile, and disgraceful, but these mortal foibles are invaluable and enviable, in a way that may be surprising.”
Jansen, who wowed Tacoma audiences in his recent title role in Agamemnon at Dukesbay Productions and as the madman Renfield in TLT’s Dracula, says, “I play the role of Sharky a hard drinker who has returned home to help his brother who has become blind. Try as he might to do the right thing, life has a way of throwing Sharky curves, and on this particular Christmas a certain guest shows up from his past to collect his comeuppance. Conor's dialog is amazing as always, this and the weir are for sure my favorite of his that I have read. I enjoy Sharky as he has a serious push and pull going on internally. I have met a few sharkys along the trail, if I have not been a Sharky myself from time to time. It's a wonderful story with life as it is warts and all and the sense of redemption we humans from time to time get to experience. Definitely my favorite ‘Christmas’ play.”
Thompson (seen in Three Musketeers at Lakewood Playhouse and in Life in the Theatre at Working Class Theatre NW) says, “I play Richard in the play, a man who has just gone blind.  He is ashamed and desperate that his entire life has been for naught, just empty dreams.  He tries to save his brother, Sharky, the only way he knows how, by letting him know he's loved. I believe the play is a wonderful black comedy, showing the humor, love, and companionship that comes from just being friends.  The special guest at the card game brings an opportunity for the four others to bond even more.  The outsider proves no match for men who have known each other for decades.  A bump in the road for men who live, and know how to live.”
Brian Hatcher was slated to play the mysterious stanger but was called out of town on a family emergency and was replaced by McConkey, an outstanding actor most recently seen in Theater Artist Olympia’s The Physician in Spite of Himself.
Raybel played a seafarer, coincidentally, in TAO’s An Improbable Peck of Plays two years ago. Giblin is an actor new to me. With McPhearson’s insightful and dramatic script, a stellar cast and director, this will definitely be worth seeing. And it costs a mere $10, free to TLT members.

The Seafarer, a staged reading, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, $10, free to TLT members, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N “I” St., Tacoma, 253-272-2281

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