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Friday, Feb. 12, 2010

‘The Seafarer’ Comes to Milwaukee Rep

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This February the Milwaukee Rep invites theatergoers to hang out at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater to watch four Irishmen play poker with the devil, as it presents Conor McPherson’s contemporary drama The Seafarer.

Judging from the cast, this should be a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the theater. Lee Ernst plays Sharky, an alcoholic who has moved to a suburb of Dublin to live with his blind brother Richard (played by James Pickering). The fact that Richard became blind after falling into a Dumpster on Halloween tells you a lot about the play—the story involves a great deal of drinking.

Also present is Richard’s drunken friend Ivan (Christopher Tarjan), who, having lost his glasses, has similar problems with sight. It may not be the best way to start Christmas Eve, but there is little time to worry about it since a gentleman named Nicky (Jonathan Gillard Daly) and his friend Mr. Lockhart (Jonathan Smoots) are coming over for the annual Christmas Eve poker game.

The overall concept of the play—a group of men playing cards with the devil—is nothing new. There was even a mid-1980s episode of “The Twilight Zone” built around that idea. What makes McPherson’s story unique is its distinct mix of having people reach through the twisted darkness of inebriation to cast light into their souls.

Irish director Ben Barnes helms the production. With a cast this good, he should be able to add remarkable depth to the darker corners of the play. This isn’t just a group of talented professional actors: Many in the ensemble have worked together over a great number of years, so there’s already a rapport that will serve the more intricate parts of the drama very well.

The impressive and talented Todd Rosenthal, a Tony Award-winning, Chicago-based scenic designer, created Richard’s home for this show.

The Milwaukee Rep’s production of The Seafarer runs through March 7.

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