A Touch of Old Ireland to welcome theatregoers at the Powerhouse Theatre
Published 6:51 pm, Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The Town Players are training for their favorite team sport, putting on a show, and Sheri Dean and Zuhair Suidan are co-captain/producers at the helm of Conor McPherson's remarkable play The Weir, which opens Feb. 26 and runs through March 13.
"The Weir, seemingly such a simple show, is filled with so many nuances and folklore that it has been a learning experience for the entire company," said Dean.
Actor Tom Rushen believes in American productions, but thinks Irish accents may be hard to replicate. "What can get in the way is that no one has the accent right. The actors are so lost in accents, they can't play the show."
That shouldn't happen in the Town Players production. Dialogue coach Tricia McDermott, a native of Connaught, believes her role is two-fold: "to give the Irish voice authenticity" and to help the actors get the lilt, cadence, as well as the pauses that can tell the story.
Helpful, too, are her knowledge of Ireland and its pubs. The size of New Jersey, Ireland has 36 counties, each with its own dialect. "These four boyos are what you'll find in the hill country.
With ten children, there's no place for guests at home, and everyone goes to the pub, that's your social network." Brendan the barkeeper, a.k.a. Raymond Stephens, said, "he's the keeper of the Town Hall, so to speak, the community pillar. "
"You hope you're doing a good job for the sake of the work and the actors. To put a good cast together makes it easier," said director Tim Cronin, explaining his respect of McPherson's writing.
To a person, the cast agrees with fellow actor Stephen DiRocco, appearing as Finbar, who said, "I am extremely thankful to Tim for the opportunity to work with this amazing ensemble of true artists."
Enter the caliber of listening The Weir requires. Stephens who spends most of his time listening and cleaning glasses, says, "A director with whom I worked in New York once said that some of the finest acting is done when no one is talking, it's more a challenge to react and listen."
"One is playing two parts: the actor partaking in the banter who knows his next line and the person engrossed in the story of others," said actor Linda Moran Branch.
A newlywed of only two years, Branch had stepped back from acting to pursue housewifery and the upkeep of a 1910 house, but believes she was meant to play this part. Lucky for the Town Players -- another authentic voice -- because her mother lives in Carrick, Ireland and Branch also owns a house there. That's where the people she loves live, and the play takes her to a place deep inside.
Tom Rushen agrees with Branch's thinking. "Being a listening actor puts you more in the moment; when talking you're rehearsed, when you are listening, you are letting everything happen.
Answering the question, "Looking at the whole, can you miss your cue," Rushen replied, "[No.] You watch, you know what's going on, the build. The difference for the audience in watching a show and a film, onstage an audience gets to see the listening, usually not so in a movie." The trick to listening, each actor believes, is focus and concentration.
Will Jeffries, who plays Jack, the only character with two monologues, was surprised to learn how young McPherson was when he wrote The Weir.
"Remember Paul McCartney and John Lennon were only 21 when they wrote some of their greatest songs," he said. McPherson's language, Jeffries believes, is disarmingly simple. "He gets to the core: what we have and what we have given up, what and who comes our way, and what and whom we have passed by."
"The Weir is a play you will enjoy and think about after you leave the theater," said producer Suidan, who is a long time patron and supporter of the Town Players.
As a new board member, he wanted to learn the ropes of how a show is transformed from concept to reality, and believes that the best way to find out is by doing.
Encouraged by Dean to assist her in producing The Weir, he stepped in and apprenticed at her highly experienced hands.
Suidan has been fascinated to see all the work, energy, passion and creativity that go with putting on a show and said, "it's a great time of year to celebrate the Irish mindset."
The Weir runs without intermission and refreshments will be served one half hour before each performance. They take place on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 26, 27, March 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and on Sundays, Feb. 28 and March 7 at 2:30 p.m. and the Powerhouse Performing Arts Center in Waveny Park. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Call 203-966-7371 for tickets.