Saturday, March 15, 2008

'The Seafarer' ...

This is not hyperbole: Watching The Seafarer was the most amazing theatrical experience of my life.

As Ciarán and I walked west on 45th after the show, as I gushed about how wonderful a play it was, as I told him that my heart was still racing, I finally settled on this summary: "The cast is alchemy."

Alchemy. Five singularly brilliant performances that, together, add up to, simply, art.

You might suggest that all theater is art. And perhaps you'd have a point. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Art is subjective. But in my view, there is good art. There is bad art. And then there is art that changes you.

The play ends its run at the end of the month. I strongly, strongly encourage everyone – everyone who lives in New York and everyone who doesn't – to see this play with this cast.

Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater will stage The Seafarer next season. John Mahoney will star. I suspect he will play Richard Harkin, and I suspect he will turn in a great performance because he is a great actor. But having seen Jim Norton (whom the New York Times refers to as "brilliant") in the role, I can fathom no other.

After the play, Ciarán and I encountered Jim's wife (I hope my memory is correct in remembering that her name is Mary) on our way to dinner. Jim appeared from the ether and I found myself walking alongside him, chatting easily while Ciaran and Mary walked behind us.

Stage actors amaze me. They so fully and believably embody characters for two hours – sometimes twice a day – for months on end, but every night, with a step off the stage, they set those short-term psyches aside and return to their affable selves.

Jim is not Richard. Ciarán is not Mr. Lockhart. Sean Mahon is not Nicky Giblin. The jaw-dropping Conleth Hill is not Ivan Curry. And the heartbreakingly perfect David Morse is not Sharky.

Except when they are.

Every character is dramatically different. Mr. Lockhart is refined yet dastardly, Richard is upbeat despite being downtrodden, Ivan is the calming force whose hands would shake if it weren't for plenty of whiskey, Nicky is all too aware of the shallow trappings of his hollow life, and Sharky is the brother who has returned home but remains desperately lost.

It is an exquisite psychological symphony, with playwright and director Conor McPherson wielding the baton.

The New York Times is a tough theatrical-review nut to crack, but this piece piles on the adulation: "Mr. Norton’s peevish, self-delighted autocrat will generate the most talk (and surely all sorts of prizes to add to the Olivier Award he picked up in London). But everyone wears his part as if it were a favorite pair of old work gloves. Mr. Hill’s faltering body language as the terminally nearsighted Ivan remains priceless. Mr. Mahon portrays a shallow man without merely coasting on the surface.

"As the central adversaries, Mr. Morse and Mr. Hinds give the show a diamond-hard dramatic center it lacked in London. Mr. Morse locates exactly the fear of going wrong in the hulking, taciturn Sharky’s careful movements and measured words. Mr. Hinds is uncanny in balancing the mortal failings of Mr. Lockhart’s borrowed body and the immortal rage and agony of the demon within."

So while I may be biased, in my opinion I am not alone.

See this play.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Blogger Dave said...

Theater actors are not only supremely talented, but they are also loads of fun off the stage. The ones that I've known from my college days, as well as the actors who are active on the boards whom I've interviewed for my work, are almost across the board lively, interesting and inquisitive, and often don't take themselves very seriously - which is, of course, an admirable trait in a human being.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

I do envy you. I would love to see The Seafarer, but unfortunately the odds of me making it to New York by the end of the month are about the same as making it to Kashmir. I suppose I Can always hope it goes on the road!

12:44 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

There was talk of this company touring with this production, Ciaran said, but everyone has other commitments. But maybe they'll reprise it sometime.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Sometimes after hearing a friend rave about a play, I kinda wish I can bring myself to see it and share the experience. Alas, no. I have yet to see any live theater that I've enjoyed. Ever. "All theater is art"? Um, no - none of it, in my experience, which is admittedly very limited. But each time someone talked me into seeing a performance, it's been extremely disappointing.

I know the next question - K2, Equus, something about Lenny Bruce (forgot the name), one of the big musical dreck-fests - Cats, I'm pretty sure - I remember shaggy costumes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (went to the bar across the street about 1/2 way through - the person who talked me into that one still owes me big!), and a couple of others that were so memorable I've forgotten their names. Each time, after feeling the loss of a couple of hours of life, it's a much harder sell for the next one.

I'm open to advice, but.....

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Gregg said...

I'm also amazed by stage actors for the same reason. That is a talent I definitely do not have! I am an amateur musician, and frequently play for musicals in the St. Louis area, so I have a fair amount of contact.

I'm amazed they can remember the lines, the interaction, every nuance of a character and just turn it on and turn it off.

1:15 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home