Posts Tagged ‘The Seafarer’

The Seafarer: Or if Samuel Beckett Wrote and Directed an Episode of Frasier

Connor McPherson’s Tony Award-nominated play, The Seafarer—which runs until May 24 at The Geffen Playhouse the way an amiable drunk runs into an old friend—starts off an awful lot like a good episode of Frasier (or a good reading of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, depending on your point of reference).  It even stars John Mahoney, who famously played Martin Crane in the much beloved NBC series, and here, too, spends much of the show sitting in a comfortable-looking chair.

Mahoney assumes the role of Richard, the blind-but-buoyant older brother of Sharky, and for the first twenty minutes or so, he could easily be performing an Irish adaptation of his old sitcom self (or an updated version of Hamm, the central character of Endgame), as he whines and cracks jokes at the expense of his quiet and depressed work-horse of a relative.  Even Ivan, the brothers’ loveable old drinking-buddy, who stumbles in looking for his glasses, could pass for a plausible Niles Crane—if Niles were thirty years older, fifty pounds heavier, and 100-times more drunk.

What begins as a playful mix of Frasier-esque banter and Beckett-esque determinism, however, soon takes on the form of an old-school morality play, with the additions of Nicky, and his mysterious cohort, Mr. Lockhart.  Just like the old English poem from which the play takes its title, the main character—in this case, Sharky—meets with a deep and frightening crisis of faith mid-narrative, and spends the rest of the time coming to terms with it.  But of course, it wouldn’t be a true Irish play if those terms didn’t include whiskey, cards, and a lot of fun.

All five actors seem to revel within their respective parts, each finding their niche within the intimidating quintet of talent and running with it.  The mere fact that they don’t get dwarfed behind Takeshi Kata’s incredible, multi-layered set design says a lot for any actor.  Director as well; because under the unseen touch of Randall Arney, these characters seem to breathe with a joy and knowledge of not only Irish culture and drama, but contemporary TV culture as well.  And it’s this inter-weaving of subtexts, of the old and the new, the experienced and the fresh, the wilting and the hopeful, that so brilliantly serves McPherson’s original vision for The Seafarer.

- By Josh Morrison

The Seafarer runs at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood until May 24. For more information regarding this show or others, please call (310) 208-5454 or visit

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