Burning Coal Theatre Company’s current production of The Weir, which opened on Thursday, Nov. 29th, in the Murphey School Auditorium in Raleigh, NC, is Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis’ favorite play. This is the second time he has produced it at Burning Coal, the first time being in 2000.
The Weir earned the 1999 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. Wikipedia states it has been called a “beautifully devious,” and a “gentle, soft-spoken, delicately crafted work.”
The play merits one of Burning Coal’s more realistic sets, thanks to Tom Burch. The audience feels a bit intimidated sitting so close to the obviously tight-knit little pub where all the action occurs. This is “their” place, and the aura of exchanged secrecies seems to hang from the walls along with the football shirts, bar mats, team pictures, family photos, postcards, and even a photograph of JFK.
There are two small, two-person tables and three stools at the actual bar. Sitting with its back to the center audience is a space heater fueled occasionally with coal sticks. Behind the bar are several shelves of various liquors, and Jameson’s Irish is prominently displayed. The intimacy of the pub is reflected in the lighting of Chris Popowich.
The costumes are casual, and offhanded, as one would expect in a village watering spot. Kudos go to Elizabeth Huddleston for them, and dialect coach Rebecca Bossen gets very high marks for the authenticity of the dialogue.
Director Jerome Davis guides this fine cast through a 90-minute gentle but teeming conversation among four old pals and a lovely young newcomer to the village. He allows his ensemble cast to reveal the Irish bent for the mystical and eerie, with several stories of the “other.”
Jack, a garage owner and mechanic who enters the pub first, is played by Simon Kaplan. Like all the cast, Kaplan seems more an Irishman dropped in for a pint than an actor in the Murphey School Auditorium, performing for Burning Coal Theatre Company. Kaplan assumes charge of the evening and exemplifies an authoritative, self-made man about the village.
Jordan Wolfe presents us with Brendan, the owner of the pub, a young man who knows to keep his feelings and opinions to himself. Brendan makes it his business to accommodate his customers.
Jim, played by Lucius Robinson, is employed by Jack, and is a quiet, preoccupied man, whose story has gruesome overtones. Robinson has a facility for making the audience ask themselves what’s going on with him.
David Dossey is the business owner Finbar, a larger-than-life type who also competes to be the default leader in any group. Dossey has insights into this would-be big-shot character, and Dossey tells Finbar’s story of the woman on the stairs with flair and animation.
Valerie, a young woman recently moved from Dublin to the rural village, has made friends with Finbar. She is played with deep emotional sensitivity by Emily Rieder, and has her character fit right in with these four men. She captures the lush poetic grit of Irish women.
The Weir at Burning Coal is a lovely play, with some clever humor, and underlying mysteriousness, all brought about by a grand script and five skilled actors and a wise director.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 7th Raleigh, NC Chatham Life & Style review by Dustin K. Britt (who gave the show 3 of 5 stars): https://chathamlifeandstyle.com/reviews-and-features; and Dec. 6th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Review Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-THE-WEIR-at-Burning-Coal-Theatre-Stirs-Up-Haunting-Tale-of-Woe-20181206; and Dec. 5th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who gave the show 4 of 5 stars): https://indyweek.com/culture/stage/in-the-weir-the-real-horror-begins-when-the-ghosts-leave-us-/ and Nov. 28th mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/the-weir-at-burning-coal/; and Nov. 30th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9177. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 10th Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/12/the-ghosts-that-haunt-our-lives-is-the-subject-of-the-weir-by-conor-mcpherson/.)
Burning Coal Theatre Company presents THE WEIR at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13-15 and 2 p.m. Dec. 16 in Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St. Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $25 ($15 students, teachers, and active-duty military personnel and $20 seniors 65+), except $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain), $15 Thursday, and $15 per person for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: 919-834-4001 or https://burningcoal.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0S6A000000sDrnUAE.
SHOW: https://burningcoal.org/the-weir-2/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/189219961966350/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://burningcoal.org/the-weir-2/#watch.
2018-19 SEASON: http://burningcoal.org/season/.
PRESENTER: http://www.burningcoal.org/, https://www.facebook.com/Burning.Coal.Theatre, and https://twitter.com/burningcoaltc.
The Weir (1997 West End and 1999 Broadway drama): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=2835 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), https://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/client/conor-mcpherson/work/the-weir-donmar (Curtis Brown page), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-weir-9223 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Weir (Wikipedia).
The Script: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Conor McPherson (Irish playwright and screenwriter): https://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/client/conor-mcpherson (Curtis Brown bio), ttp://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/3504 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/conor-mcpherson-4900 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0574217/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conor_McPherson (Wikipedia).
Jerome Davis (Raleigh, NC director and Burning Coal’s founding artistic director): https://burningcoal.org/jerome-davis/ (Burning Coal bio) and https://www.facebook.com/jerome.davis.5686 (Facebook page).
REVIEWER: Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.