By Biz Bledsoe
JON HELGASON/Arizona Daily Wildcat
"The Weir," directed by Brian Kerney features (left to right) Laura Ann Herman, bartender Brian Wees, Ted Parks (seated), and Tim A. Janes.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday November 14, 2002
Confessed secrets. Loneliness amidst camaraderie. The past haunting the present. Lots of beer and infallible Irish accents.
These are some of the elements you'll encounter in The Quintessential Stage's production of "The Weir," written by a young yet highly celebrated Irish playwright named Conor McPherson in 1996. Although the play is still relatively new, and its playwright so young, "The Weir" received recognition in the Royal National Theatre's list of the "100 Plays of the Century." McPherson himself won the 1997 Evening Standard Theatre Award and the 1999 Olivier Award for the play.
"The Weir," which takes place in an Irish pub, consists of five characters and their telling of various stories and secrets. Each of the four male characters takes a turn telling a ghostly tale, while Valerie, the sole female of the group, contemplates revealing her own secretive past.
"(In the pub) the talk gets around to ghostly tales of the area," said Laura Ann Herman, who plays Valerie and is also Quintessential's founder and artistic director. "But then Valerie tells them a story that tops it all."
Where and When ·
· The Weir runs this Friday to Sunday, Nov. 22-24 and Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Muse, 516 N. Fifth Ave.
· The show starts at 8 p.m. Fidays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $14, or $12 for students, seniors and military.
· Call 798-0708 for information.
Quintessential is celebrating its fifth anniversary and simultaneously preparing its new theater space in the Benjamin/Studebaker building downtown. The renovations have been underway for almost three years, and are expected to finish this summer. When complete, the new theater will have seating for over 100 people on movable risers, plus full lighting and sound.
As Tucson's only off-Broadway theater, Quintessential remains faithful to the idea of affordable theater. The non-profit theater employs local actors in professional-quality, highly acclaimed, classic plays. Over its five-year existence, Quintessential has put on 18 productions.
"'The Weir" is a play we've wanted to do for a while," Herman said. "It has a wonderful sense of mood, and it's got wonderful Irish humor in it. It's very much a character-driven piece. It's a really nice slice of life."
If you're wondering just what a weir is, here's a lesson in Irish vocabulary.
"A weir is a dam used to regulate water and generate power," said Brian Kearney, who plays Finbar, one of the men in the pub, and is Quintessential's resident director. "When the weir goes up, it blocks up the river, so that one side of the river is still held back, self-contained. On the other side the water surges through and is unleashed, creating force and power.
"The characters each tell a long sort of haunting story. Their inner turmoil, passions, fears, and regrets are being unleashed through this telling of the stories."
If "The Weir" seems like just one large story made up of smaller stories, consider that it is the stories themselves that lend meaning to the larger whole. The characters' stories, by turns funny, sad and eerie, convey a longing and a loneliness they all share. It is in the sharing of their pain that true friendship arises. The isolated, rural setting also contributes to the mood of the play.
"'The Weir" is about the fear of being alone in the end," Kearney said. "It's steeped in the tradition of Irish drama. The dialogue is very down to earth, realistic. Although it's classified as a drama, it's got a little bit of everything. The mood shifts, it's ever-changing."
Valerie, as perhaps the most mysterious character of the play, holds special implications for the meaning of "The Weir."
"She's a very friendly outgoing type of person. She falls easily into the camaraderie of this group," Herman said of her character. "And she tells her story of how she's gone through something that's pretty scary and she's haunted by it, but it's the evening and the camaraderie that give her the ability to speak out about it. By the end, you feel that she's made some real connections with the people and the place."