New York Stories: ‘Ghosts of Barrooms Past’

The Irish Repertory Theatre has a reputation to uphold.

The company is “small” and prominent, one that doesn’t have a huge and gaudy marquee, but it does have a big voice. For those who’ve seen a show know, and seeing one for first time was perfect enough to make me a believer.

The initial reaction: Being greeted felt as unusual as much as it felt comfortable. It didn’t feel like a surprise, but it was a surprise in itself as I have never participated as an audience member for their shows. “The Weir,” a play written by Connor McPherson, seemed to be the best best way to pop my “I’m in New York, and I’m going to see an Irish play” cherry.

There is a strong personal belief going to see a play is an art that has to be upheld and applauded. This personal belief projects into the cinematic realm as well: If a film has that “live performance” appeal, if it’s tangible and could be potentially related to, if it has the ability to engage me enough to question and coax me to differentiate reality from fiction — (and vice versa?) — OK, you have me.

I’d like to be kept wanting more. Sequels and prequels are unusual for stage. For cinema: Producing the extra chapters is easy, sometimes too easy, and oftentimes being “far too easy” comes across as (and is) unnecessary.

After Martin Casella suggested I read “The Weir,” he pointed out to me that The Irish Rep would be performing the show in the latter part of the summer. He’s a good salesman: Although he didn’t really know me, he knew what key words enticed me — Irish, literature, play, read, New York.weirplaybill

Jumping on the opportunity to see it –luckily the production added more shows; I would have been out of luck — allowed me to take notice and request a front row spot. It didn’t feel like front row spot, because the set design was so impeccably well-done. This was not a theatre; this was an Irish pub. No pictures were taken, because they were not allowed (and the staff asked kindly).

To make the experience even more realistic, the patron next to me literally turned out to be that person who sits next to you at the bar. No, it wouldn’t be a crowded bar night; the scenario would be a mid-week eating-a-meal-alone set up. There would be countless empty stools waiting for an ass, but the person sits next to you; it’s not because they are interested in what you’re reading — that’s the perfect opener to use, by the way — but they want to talk.

It’s great to empathize with another for a little, but the time to wrap up is when the food gets cold and the beer drops below room temperature.

A woman has cried on my shoulder; a guy told me that he wasn’t a pimp, but he was still taking care of a dancer whose husband was an jerk and ex-con; and another gent kept prodding, asking me if I had a quiet backyard, saying that he had a quiet backyard, and the two of us should hang out, and then — after believing he had left — he was waiting for me at the upper exterior exit of Empire Brewing Company.

At first, the fact she had brought her own sippy cup — yes, folks, ’twas one of those child fail-proof cups with the raised straw thing — seemed to be a clutch idea. Perhaps a flask should have found its way into a back pocket? It was filled with something — wine or juice. (I don’t know, because I didn’t ask her for a sniff.) She finished it before the play was over, and there was about five minutes left when she broke out a produce bag.

Up until this point, the play was whimsical. The characters valiantly jumped up from the text and onto the stage. They drank, they smoked (herbal cigs), they ripped on each other and they told ghost stories. Each tone of story graduates, and the ending was more powerful than remembered.

When reading something heartbreaking, it causes you to briefly stop. The brain takes it in, and let the affection begin. When Valerie tells her story of why she’s moved from Dublin — Hearing the words from Valerie’s (actress Mary McCann) mouth made the tale more legitimate (for lack of a better word).

The apparent wind in the background of a breezy night played through a sound track. The look of the rest of the actors (Sean Gormley, John Keating, Paul O’Brien, Tim Ruddy), appearance and their solemness made the theatre feel very chilly on the near 90-degree day New York was experiencing.

The set — Oh, that set! It was impeccably done. Pictures online don’t do it justice. The detail — you felt right at home … at the corner pub.

This gave me such energy.

As McCann, O’Brien and Ruddy sat by the fire in the last scene — SWISH!

The woman next to me takes out a bag similar to those long slender ones found in the produce section of a market. She fans it open. She drops her sippy cup into the bag, and the thing catches numerous times all the way to the bottom. She then ties the bag closed.

Wide-eyed and holding my breath, I could see out of the peripheral vision the woman to my right looking up at me, waiting for a reaction. Of all the people to sit next to and of all the places to sit in the theatre.

If I got blamed for this, there would be more than just retro Adam West-Batman onomatopoeia graphics. I heard the actors’ thoughts: What the bloody hell… People just let it go. It wasn’t worth it.

A scene from
A scene from “The Weir.” The source listed at the end of the post.

I walked around Union Square, waiting for time to pass as I was meeting up with a couple friends that evening. I passed the community garbage pile which smelled less wretched. Ruddy, the actor from the show, crossed my path at one point, but I didn’t be that guy.

The next stop was explore the streets, Chelsea and Soho. There was energy to burn. Unfortunately, my phone didn’t have as much juice as I did. Sam said they were running behind, and my battery had 30-percent left in it. Should the phone die: There was at least a specific meeting place set. Should the phone die: There would be no idea how late the couple was running.

What if they had to cancel?

“The Weir” cover photo source:

One thought on “New York Stories: ‘Ghosts of Barrooms Past’

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