Welcome to 2014 and Happy New Year!
Seanachaí Theatre Company just announced an added month of performances for an amazing production of Conor McPherson's Tony and Olivier Award-nominated darkly different drama "The Seafarer."
With moments of warm humor and plenty of suspense, it's directed by Matt Miller and features ensemble members Ira Amyx, Brad Armacost, Shane Kenyon, Kevin Theis and Dan Waller at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago through Feb. 1.
The last time I saw a production of "The Seafarer," the work of one of Ireland's most celebrated playwrights, it was five years ago exactly this time of year, at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and starred actor John Mahoney.
I do believe I rank this current production even above what I enjoyed so much in 2008.
The story is set on Christmas Eve, as a pair of boozing Irish brothers are set to enjoy the holidays in true Dublin spirit with cards, drink and friends.
But when a mysterious stranger from long ago arrives to collect a debt, everything seems upside down and the words "Christmas spirit" take on a new meaning.
Waller and Armacost star as the brothers, Sharky and Richard, and they give the performances of a lifetime during this two and a half hour, one-intermission life-changing stage journey. Waller is brooding and defiant, while Armacost is loud, languishing and brandishes a short-wick for patience.
Theis is every bit as foreboding as needed for his both charming and menacing character Mr. Lockhart, the new face to this crowd of old souls. His counter is Amyx as the care-feel and stumbling pal Ivan.
But of them all, many of my favorite moments are courtesy of actor Kenyon as the happy-go-lucky and oblivious good-natured Nicky, who never quite seems to be able to see the forest through the trees of undercurrent that surround.
The production team for "The Seafarer" includes Joe Schermoly, whose scenic design of a basement flat apartment is ideal. Beth Laske-Miller has costume design that is brilliantly planned (and nicely distressed). Completing the needed bleak picture is Julian Pike with lighting design that illustrates every ray of light as needed, as well as mood capturing sound design by Stephen Ptacek.
Remaining performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $26 Thursdays and Fridays and $30 Saturdays and Sundays. Seniors/students get $5 off. FYI: seanachai.org or by calling (866) 811-4111. Group discounts (eight or more) are available by calling (773) 878-3727.
As for this theater group, Seanachaí is the Gaelic word for "storyteller." It was the duty of the Seanachaí to keep stories alive. The mission of Seanachaí Theatre Company is "to return theater to this origin by creating compelling productions and programs that focus the energy of artists towards the common goal of exceptional storytelling."