Irish Rep’s revival of “The Weir” fuses the old world and the new
Conor McPherson’s drama The Weir is defined by stories, so it’s only fitting that Ciarán O’Reilly has his own story about the play.
Though he directed the current revival at the Irish Repertory Theatre, where he’s also producing director, O’Reilly first came to the show in 1999, when it made its Broadway debut after a successful run in London. Charlotte Moore, Irish Rep’s artistic director, and he were asked to be the American casting directors, finding replacements and understudies for the original British performers.
Now, however, even though the script hasn’t changed, The Weir means something new to him. “I’ve had a family since then, and now I have a daughter around the age of the girl that’s described in the play,” O’Reilly says. “I’ve cried more times in rehearsal when that’s come up.”
He’s referring to a scene near the end of the show, when a woman named Valerie (Tess Klein), who’s new to the small-town Irish pub where a group of locals are passing the night, tells a supernatural story about her child. It’s the emotional climax to an evening of spooky tales, with everyone remembering some time or another when the spirit world intruded on their lives.
As O’Reilly’s emotional response suggests, however, The Weir is more than a collection of ghost stories. Every character has a distinct relationship to his or her yarn, be it fearful or hesitant or amused. Some people are afraid of the past they’re remembering. Some wish they could stay there. Some spin tales to express feelings they can’t face head-on.
June 15, 2013 No Comments
Good Television scours the ethics of reality TV
Call it a case of biting the hand that feeds his wife.
“My wife works in reality television,” says the longtime actor and now playwright Rod McLachlan (pictured at left with director Bob Krakower). “And at a certain point, I noticed that I was getting called about fewer and fewer jobs as she was getting called more and more.”
On one level, then, McLachlan’s new play Good Television serves as a bit of revenge. The show, which is now at Atlantic Theater’s Stage 2, takes aim at a reality show very much like the A&E hit Intervention, in which (relatively) telegenic addicts are confronted by their family and loved ones while the cameras catch every sob and accusation. (Intervention is one of several reality shows that McLachlan’s wife, Soodabeh Khosropur, has produced.)
But McLachlan, who in addition to his television roles has had small parts in films like Magnolia and appeared in several of Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre productions on Broadway, didn’t want to take the easy way out in terms of lampooning the creators of these shows. “I wanted to make sure these weren’t shallow, evil men and women,” he says. “The people I knew through my wife came from good schools and had good values. This is the work they can get.”
May 28, 2013 No Comments
Why Alan Cumming’s Co-Stars are Crucial to the Broadway Revival
The current Broadway revival of Macbeth is often called a one-man show, but that’s not entirely accurate.
Yes, the production takes place in a mental institution where Alan Cumming’s character reenacts most of the play by himself, but he is not alone. Jenny Sterlin plays his doctor and Brendan Titley plays his nurse, and the show wouldn’t make sense without them. As Sterlin says, “It would just be a one-man show of Macbeth. It wouldn’t give the reason why you would do it.”
In the opening scene, Sterlin and Titley change Cumming out of his street clothes and into hospital garb. They speak to him as they work, but instead of reciting Shakespeare, they say what a medical staff might naturally say to a patient. And because they aren’t miked, what they’re saying is barely audible.
“It wasn’t important that anybody past row two or three heard it,” says Titley. “They wanted to make sure the audience knew that we were in a world that wasn’t Shakespeare’s world, that where we start off in the play is not a dramatization, so that it was clear that he was surrounded by the natural world.”
May 21, 2013 No Comments
Tina Packer navigates “Women of Will”
Shakespeare’s had a grip on Tina Packer for her entire career. Decades ago, when she auditioned for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company, she used one of Queen Margaret’s speeches from Henry IV, Part III. Now she’s performing that speech again in Women of Will, her comprehensive look at the women in Shakespeare’s canon.
“I love doing [that speech] because of the range of emotion,” explains the 74-year-old actress/playwright/director/Shakespeare scholar. “Even though she’s taunting [the Duke of York] and being vicious, the truth of it is [that] that man should have been her husband, and she knows it.”
Women of Will, which plays through May 26 at the Gym at Judson, is equal parts lecture, Shakespeare revue, and master class. There are two version of the show: a two and a half-hour “overview” and an eight-hour, five-part marathon. During the overview, Packer plays 10 women, and on alternate weekends, she undertakes the marathon, playing 25 women and four men.
April 30, 2013 No Comments
How Colm Tóibín wrote Broadway’s The Testament of Mary
The Master, perhaps Colm Tóibín’s best-known novel, looked at a rare artistic misstep in the life of Henry James—the period when James tried and failed to succeed as a playwright. (He was jeered by the audience as he took his onstage bow at the end of Guy Domville in 1895.
Tóibín is clearly not a superstitious man: He himself will make his Broadway debut as a playwright on April 22, when The Testament of Mary, based on his short novel of the same name, officially opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre. “Yes, I will be there,” he says, “and yes, I will be nervous.”
April 15, 2013 No Comments