'The Seafarer' at the Phoenix (review) 

Conor McPherson is considered one of the best contemporary Irish playwrights. His play The Seafarer garnered a 2008 Tony Award nomination for Best Play. These accolades intensified how underwhelmed I was when I saw the show opening weekend at the Phoenix Theatre.

Perhaps it was a case of over-hype. But 's script meanders, the basic premise gets no original treatment and the cast delivers one-note performances in muddy Irish accents.

The premise of the story involves a trio of gritty men: Richard, who lost his sight dumpster diving and won't bathe, because he's such a gritty character; his gritty little brother Sharkey, who got fired from his last job because he was involved with the boss' wife, and who harbors a deep, dark secret; and Ivan, a gritty drinking friend who looks in on Richard and runs winos off the back stoop. On Christmas Eve, another friend, Nicky, portrayed as some kind of '70s throwback, brings the suit-clad, nice-talking Mr. Lockheart over to play poker, which becomes a game for Sharkey's soul.

Under Erik Allen Friedman's direction, Doug Johnson, who is usually such a pleasure on stage, looks painfully constipated the entire show. Rich Komenich as Richard contributes nothing to his character but cantankerousness. Will Carlson's Ivan just flounders around the stage, and Michael Shelton as Nicky has a nebulous personality. Kurt Owens' reveal as the show's Big Bad is over the top.

Perhaps now that the show is headed into its third weekend things have improved ... but it might have required a deal with the devil.

The Seafarer continues at the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave., through Feb. 28. Tickets are $25, $15 for ages 24 and under (all Thursdays $15). Call 317-635-PLAY or go to www.phoenixtheatre.org.

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